Israel: What we know about the attack on the aid convoy in Gaza

War against Hamas
What we know about Israel’s attack on an aid convoy in Gaza

Even the markings of the cars on the roof could not prevent Israel’s attack on the “World Central Kitchen” convoy

© Omar Ashtawy/APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire / DPA

Israel has killed seven people in an airstrike on a convoy distributing food in the Gaza Strip. The aid organization is not the only one to sharply criticize the attack. What is known about the fatal incident and what still needs to be clarified.

The death of foreign aid workers in the Gaza Strip in an Israeli airstrike threatens to further isolate the country and cause additional tensions with its most important ally, the United States. US President Joe Biden made Israel made serious accusations on Tuesday evening (local time): “Israel has not done enough to protect the aid workers who are trying to provide the civilian population with urgently needed help.” This is one of the main reasons why distributing humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip is so difficult, Biden complained in a written statement.

What happened?

On the night of Easter Monday to Tuesday, Israel attacked a convoy from the aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK) from the air. Seven employees of the organization died.

“The WCK team was traveling in a conflict-free zone in two armored vehicles with the WCK logo and one unprotected vehicle,” wrote the aid organization. The convoy was hit, even though the trip had been coordinated with the Israeli army. The aid workers had just left a warehouse in the town of Deir al-Balah in the central part of the Gaza Strip when they were fired upon. There they unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid that was brought to the Gaza Strip by sea.

What kind of organization is World Central Kitchen?

World Central Kitchen is a relief foundation that the Spanish-born star chef José Andrés founded in 2010 in response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Since then, WCK has been providing meals to people in disaster areas around the world.

WCK delivers groceries and prepares meals for those in need. According to its own information, the organization has served more than 42 million meals in the Gaza Strip. On “Our more than 60 kitchens in southern and central Gaza cook hundreds of thousands of meals every day (…),” said WCK.

Who died?

According to World Central Kitchen, the seven victims came from Australia, Poland, Great Britain and the Palestinian territories – and one of the victims also had US and Canadian citizenship. The news agency Reuters gives the names of those killed:

Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha25, Palestinian.

John Chapman57, British.

Jacob Flickinger33, American and Canadian.

Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom43, Australian.

James Henderson33, British.

James Kirby47, British.

Damian Sobol35, Polish.

What does Israel’s prime minister say about the incident?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that World Central Kitchen aid workers were killed “unintentionally.” “This happens in times of war,” Netanyahu said in a video message. The incident will be thoroughly investigated. Israel is also in contact with the governments of the countries where some of the dead came from. “We… will do everything we can to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

What does Israel’s army say about the attack?

Israel’s chief of staff Herzi Halevi described the airstrike that killed several employees of the aid organization World Central Kitchen as a “serious mistake.”

“The attack was not carried out with the intention of harming the WCK volunteers. It was a mistake that followed a misidentification – at night during a war under very complex conditions. This should not have happened,” Halevi said in Wednesday night in a video statement. This was revealed by a preliminary investigation. An independent committee will thoroughly investigate the incident and conclude it “in the next few days”. The army will learn from the conclusions “and implement them immediately,” said the Israeli chief of staff, expressing his regret.

Israeli troops are conducting military operations in the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip

What don’t we know yet?

How could it happen that the air strike was ordered and carried out despite the identification of the vehicles and the announcement of the convoy to the IDF? What consequences does the airstrike have on international solidarity with the country attacked by Hamas? In any case, the international reactions are unusually clear.

According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a lack of discipline and high-handedness on the part of Israeli commanders in the Gaza Strip are the reason for the deadly attack on foreign aid workers. Commanders and armed forces involved in the incident acted against instructions and rules, the paper wrote on Wednesday, citing military circles. However, coordination problems between the army and the aid organization World Central Kitchen were not the reason for the fatal attack. When asked, an Israeli army spokesman said they were checking the reports.

Sources: DPA, AFP, World Central Kitchen on the attack in Gaza, “BBC” to James Kirby, Reuters on all those killed, “The Independent” on Zomi Frankcom.

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