PM Netanyahu Says Israeli Airstrike ‘Unintentionally’ Killed World Central Kitchen Workers in Gaza, Allies Demand Explanation

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Netanyahu described the deadly attack on the aid workers as unintended and “tragic” and pledged an independent inquiry.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel mistakenly killed seven people from the World Central Kitchen charity in a Gaza airstrike, and the United States and other allies called for explanations amid widespread condemnation.

The strike on the WCK convoy killed citizens from Australia, Britain, and Poland as well as Palestinians and a dual citizen of the US and Canada.

WCK, founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres, said its staff were travelling in two armoured cars emblazoned with the charity’s logo and another vehicle, and had coordinated their movements with the Israeli military.

The convoy was hit after leaving a Deir el-Balah warehouse after unloading more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza by sea.

Netanyahu described the deadly attack on the aid workers as unintended and “tragic” and pledged an independent inquiry.

“Unfortunately in the past day, there was a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip,” he said in a video statement.

“This happens in war. We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence.”

The Israeli military said it was conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of the incident. It pledged an investigation by “an independent, professional, and expert body”.

Several humanitarian aid organisations, including WCK, suspended operations in Gaza on Tuesday. The groups said they need to determine whether their workers can safely provide aid in the territory.

“We are horrified and heartbroken by the tragic killing of seven innocent humanitarians in Gaza,” said Chris Skopec, executive vice president of global health at Project HOPE, which operates health clinics in Rafah and Deir al-Balah and provides medical supplies and other aid to area hospitals.

Erin Gore, chief executive of WCK, said the attack was “unforgivable”. He said: “This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war.”

At least 196 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza since October, according to the United Nations, and Hamas has previously accused Israel of targeting aid distribution sites.

The attack on the aid convoy drew widespread outrage and criticism from some of Israel’s main allies.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Netanyahu in a call Tuesday that Britain was appalled by the deaths, which included three Britons, and demanded a thorough and transparent independent investigation, Sunak’s office said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he expressed “anger and concern” to Netanyahu in a separate call.

The US, Israel’s closest ally, said there was no evidence Israel deliberately targeted the aid workers but that it was “outraged” by their deaths. It said US President Joe Biden called WCK’s founder to share his condolences.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had urged Israel to carry out a swift, thorough, and impartial investigation into the attack.

The UN, which has warned of a looming famine in Gaza, again called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

Australia, Britain, and Poland – countries that have generally been friendly towards Israel – all demanded action to protect aid workers, underscoring Netanyahu’s increasing diplomatic isolation over Gaza.