World

Israel draws fire for death of aid workers as charities pull out

April 03, 2024
Police try to push back people in a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government
Police try to push back people in a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government

JERUSALEM —Some of Israel's closest allies, including the United States, on Tuesday condemned the deaths of seven aid workers who were killed by airstrikes in Gaza — a loss that prompted multiple charities to suspend food deliveries to Palestinians on the brink of starvation.

The deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers threatened to set back efforts by the US and other countries to open a maritime corridor for aid from Cyprus to help ease the desperate conditions in northern Gaza.

President Joe Biden issued an unusually blunt criticism of Israel by its closest ally, suggesting that the incident demonstrated that Israel was not doing enough to protect civilians.

“Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians,” he said, adding he was “outraged and heartbroken" by their killings.

“Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen,” he added. "The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties.”

Ships still laden with some 240 tons of aid from the charitable group turned back from Gaza just a day after arriving, according to Cyprus. Other humanitarian aid organizations also suspended operations in Gaza, saying it was too dangerous to offer help. Israel has allowed only a trickle of food and supplies into Gaza's devastated north, where experts say famine is imminent.

The hit on the charity’s convoy also highlighted what critics have called Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and lack of regard for civilian casualties in Gaza.

Israel's military chief, Lt. General Herzi Halevi, announced the results of a preliminary investigation early Wednesday.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification“ at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said. He gave no further details. He said an independent body would conduct a “thorough investigation” that would be completed in the coming days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier acknowledged the “unintended strike... on innocent people” and said officials would work to ensure it does not happen again.

World Central Kitchen said it had coordinated with the Israeli military over the movement of its cars. Three vehicles moving at large distances apart were hit in succession. They were left incinerated and mangled, indicating multiple targeted strikes.

At least one of the vehicles had the charity’s logo printed across its roof to make it identifiable from the air, and the ordnance punched a large hole through the roof. Footage showed the bodies at a hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, several of them wearing protective gear with the charity’s logo.

Israeli TV said the initial military investigation found that the army identified the cars carrying World Central Kitchen’s workers arriving at its warehouse in Deir al-Balah and observed suspected militants nearby. Half an hour later, the vehicles were struck by the air force as they headed south. The reports said it was not clear who ordered the strikes or why.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the devastating Israeli airstrikes that killed World Central Kitchen personnel bringing the number of aid workers killed in this conflict to 196, is "unconscionable.”

He reiterated that the Security Council resolution “must be implemented without delay.”

The Secretary-General addressed the General Assembly on human security, recalling his recent Ramadan solidarity visit to Egypt and Jordan, noting that the words “human security”, makes him to think about the two million humans in Gaza who have no security at all, desperately seeking protection from hunger, disease, and relentless Israeli bombardment.

And he thinks about Israelis who feel a terrible absence of human security deeply traumatized by the terror attacks of 7 October.

Nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza, Guterres said.

The world faces very serious challenges, the UN chief said, adding that conflicts, the climate emergency, and a global cost-of-living crisis are combining to reverse decades of development gains.

He went on to say that "the devastating Israeli airstrikes that killed World Central Kitchen personnel yesterday bring the number of aid workers killed in this conflict to 196 – including more than 175 members of our own UN staff. This is unconscionable – but it is an inevitable result of the way the war is being conducted"

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Knesset building in Jerusalem for the third day on Tuesday, calling for early elections and for a deal to secure the release of dozens of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas militants.

"We need a new set of elections, really urgently,” said protester Yoav Hollander.

Israeli society was broadly united immediately after Oct. 7, when Hamas killed some 1,200 people during a cross-border attack and took 250 others hostage.

Nearly six months of conflict have renewed divisions over the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though the country remains largely in favour of the war.

The families of the hostages are growing increasingly desperate as the war grinds on with no resolution in sight for the fate of their loved ones.

Demonstrations this week intensified calling for a deal to free the captives.

Israel and Hamas are holding negotiations on the hostages in exchange for a cease-fire, but the sides remain far apart on their terms for a deal.

Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity after dozens were freed during a cease-fire in November.

Hamas also holds the remains of roughly 30 others who were either killed on Oct. 7 or died in captivity.

The Israeli offensive in Gaza has killed more than 32,900 Palestinians, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. — Euronews


April 03, 2024
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