‘It happens in war’: Israel admits responsibility for killings of aid workers in Gaza Strip

Seven humanitarian workers were killed in air strike as three cars hit one after another

Israel has accepted responsibility for the killing of seven humanitarian aid workers in an air strike on the Gaza Strip on Monday night.

“Unfortunately, there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people,” prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said. “It happens in war. We check it to the end, we are in contact with the governments and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again.”

A convoy of three World Central Kitchen (WCK) vehicles left a warehouse in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, travelling in a designated humanitarian corridor, after escorting a lorry carrying aid that arrived via a boat from Cyprus. The three vehicles were hit one after the other in the air strike, killing seven WCK staff – three British nationals along Australian, Polish and Palestinian workers and a dual US-Canadian citizen.

The vehicles were travelling along a route approved by the Israeli army. A senior army general is heading the investigation but it appears that the Israeli military believed a gunman or gunmen were travelling in the convoy.

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Israeli sources described the incident as the most tragic error to have occurred since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war almost six months ago, but noted numerous incidents of “friendly fire” – Israeli forces firing and killing other Israeli troops and even soldiers erroneously killing Hamas-held hostages.

WCK said it was temporarily halting its operations in Gaza and ordered its aid ship to return to Cyprus. “I am heartbroken and appalled that we lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the [Israel Defense Forces,” WCK’s chief executive Erin Gore 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,” she said. “This is unforgivable.”

Israel had hoped the US aid group could be one of the organisations to replace Unrwa, the United Nations refugee agency, in Gaza following Israeli allegations that some Unrwa employees were involved in the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7th. Israel has praised WCK for assisting Israeli border community residents in the aftermath of that attack.

Anera, another US-based aid organisation, suspended its Gaza operations in the wake of the air strike, raising Israeli concerns that it will be forced to take full responsibility for ensuring humanitarian aid deliveries, entrenching the Israeli presence in the coastal enclave – something it wanted to avoid.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken urged Israel to conduct “a swift, a thorough and impartial investigation” into the killing of the aid workers. “These people are heroes, they run into the fire, not away from it. We shouldn’t have a situation where people who are simply trying to help their fellow human beings are themselves at grave risk,” he said.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 32,900 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostages seized in the Hamas-led attack on October 7th. It believes134 hostages remain in Hamas captivity though it is not known how many are alive.

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