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Palestinians check a damaged vehicle after Israeli strikes in central Gaza Strip city of Deir el-Balah. Alamy Stock Photo
global condemnation

Israeli president apologises for deaths of Gaza seven aid workers in strike

The convoy was hit while the aid workers were leaving a warehouse after the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid.

ISRAELI PRESIDENT ISAAC Herzog has apologised for the air strike that killed seven aid workers in Gaza.

Herzog said he spoke to Jose Andres, the US-based celebrity chef who heads the aid group World Central Kitchen (WCK), to express his “deep sorrow and sincere apologies over the tragic loss of life”.

The state’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier admitted that the armed forces “unintentionally” killed them after the cars they were travelling in were hit by an airstrike in Gaza on Monday evening.

The WCK said this morning that it is pausing its operations in Gaza until further notice.

The convoy was hit while it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, after the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid.

The seven killed are from Australia, Poland, United Kingdom, a dual citizen of the US and Canada, and Palestine.

WCK has confirmed that three of the victims were British citizens. 

The UK government today said it had summoned Israel’s ambassador in London to hear its “unequivocal condemnation” of the strike, while British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he spoke with his Israeli counterpart to seek an urgent explanation. 

“Israel must urgently explain how this happened and make major changes to ensure safety of aid workers on the ground,” said Cameron on X.

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer meanwhile said the Israeli air strike was “outrageous and unacceptable” and called for a “full investigation”.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly also said she “expects full accountability for these killings”. 

The World Central Kitchen says it had coordinated their movements with the Israeli Defence Forces beforehand.

Speaking as he left hospital in Jerusalem after a hernia operation, Netanyahu said: “Unfortunately, in the last day there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip.

“It happens in war, we will investigate it right to the end… We are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again.”

The bodies of the workers were brought to the Al-Aqsa hospital in Gaza. Photographs and videos of the bodies at the hospital show that the aid workers were wearing protective body armour with the logo of the charity on it when they were killed.

There are currently no reports of any Irish citizen being among the dead, following claims last night that an Irish person working for the charity had been killed. The Department of Foreign Affairs have been contacted for comment.

palestinians-carry-the-body-of-a-world-central-kitchen-worker-at-al-aqsa-hospital-in-deir-al-balah-gaza-strip-tuesday-april-2-2024-world-central-kitchen-an-aid-group-says-an-israeli-strike-that Palestinians carry the body of a World Central Kitchen worker at Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

In a statement on X this morning, Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin said he is “appalled by the deaths of humanitarian workers in an Israeli strike, killed providing lifesaving aid to the people of Gaza”. 

“Full accountability is needed. This again underlines the need for an immediate ceasefire to protect civilians and allow full humanitarian access,” Martin said. 

He was among a number of TDs and ministers to condemn the attack. 

In a statement on Telegram, the Israeli military said it is “conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident”. 

Al Jazeera reports that they are the first foreign aid workers to be killed in Gaza since the war began. 

World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore said: “This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable.”

“I am heartbroken and appalled that we—World Central Kitchen and the world—lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF.

“The love they had for feeding people, the determination they embodied to show that humanity rises above all, and the impact they made in countless lives will forever be remembered and cherished,” she added.

Cypriot officials have said that ships are now turning back from Gaza with around 240 tons of undelivered aid following the fatal air strike.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Theodoros Gotsis said that around 100 tons of aid had been unloaded before World Central Kitchen suspended operations.

Global condemnation

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell paid tribute to those killed, condemned the attack and urged an investigation into the matter. 

“Despite all the demands to protect civilians and humanitarian workers, we see new innocent casualties,” he posted on X. 

“This shows that the UN Security Council resolution asking for an immediate ceasefire, a full humanitarian access and a reinforced protection of civilians must be immediately implemented.”

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has called for a “full, transparent explanation” from Israel.

“The news of the air strike that killed World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers in Gaza is deeply distressing,” he said. 

“British Nationals are reported to have been killed, we are urgently working to verify this information and will provide full support to their families.

“We have called on Israel to immediately investigate and provide a full, transparent explanation of what happened.”

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne “strongly” condemned the strike while speaking to media alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Paris. 

“Protecting humanitarian workers is a moral and legal imperative that everyone must adhere to. Nothing justifies such a tragedy,” he said. 

rafah-gaza-02nd-apr-2024-palestinian-children-react-from-their-windows-near-at-the-site-of-an-israeli-airstrike-doring-search-for-victims-after-an-israeli-airstrike-on-zorob-family-home-in-rafah Palestinian children react from their windows near at the site of an Israeli airstrike during a search for victims after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said he has asked the Israeli ambassador in Warsaw for “urgent explanations” about the strike, and offered his “condolences to the family of our brave volunteer”.

Sikorski said Poland would open its own inquiry into the aid worker’s death. 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has also demanded that Israel clarify how the strike occurred “as soon as possible”.

“I expect and demand that the Israeli government clarify as soon as possible the circumstances of this brutal attack that has taken the lives of seven aid workers who were doing nothing but helping,” he said during a visit to the Jabal el-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in neighbouring Jordan.

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini has said he is “devastated” by the loss of life. 

“The World Central Kitchen provides much needed food assistance to a starving population. Humanitarian workers are #NotATarget,” he wrote on X. 

Lazzarini expressed his “deepest condolences” to World Central Kitchen and to the families of those killed. 

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters overnight that Australian Zomi Frankcom was killed in the strike. Albanese said Zomi was doing “extraordinarily valuable work” and had previously volunteered in Australia to help families after wildfires.

“This is someone who was volunteering overseas to provide aid to people who are suffering a tremendous deprivation in Gaza. And this is just completely unacceptable,” he said.

He added: “Australia expects full accountability for the death of aid workers, which is completely unacceptable.” 

In a video statement, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said: “We will be opening a probe to examine this serious incident further. This will help us reduce the risk of such an event from occurring again.”

Iranian guards killed

Separately, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, a primary branch of the country’s armed forces, has said that seven of its members were killed in an Israeli strike on the Iranian embassy’s consular annex in Damascus on Monday. 

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps named Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi and another high-ranking officer, Brigadier General Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, as being among those killed. 

Israel said it would not comment on the reported attack.

Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 11 people, including several Guards members, were killed when “Israeli missiles… destroyed the building of an annex to the Iranian embassy”.

The toll includes “eight Iranians, two Syrians and one Lebanese – all of them fighters, none of them civilians,” Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Observatory with a network of sources in Syria, told AFP.

Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, giving a lower toll, told Iranian state TV that “at least five people were killed in the attack which was carried out by F-35 fighter jets” that fired six missiles at the building.

Syria’s defence ministry said that “the attack destroyed the entire building, killing and injuring everyone inside, and work is underway to recover the bodies and rescue the wounded from under the rubble”.

Only the gate of the building was left standing after the attack, with a sign reading “the consular section of the embassy of Iran”.

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group warned Tuesday that Israel would pay for killing high-level Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

“This crime will not pass without the enemy receiving punishment and revenge,” Hezbollah said in a statement.

Iran’s ambassador, Akbari, vowed the attack “will lead to our decisive response”.

Reacting to the reported attack, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said: “Not content with mass starvation in Gaza, the killing of aid workers, destroying hospitals and restricting ⁦Al Jazeera; the Israeli Government seem hell bent on all out war with Hezbollah & Iran.”

He called on the EU to sanction Israel and for the US to stop providing military aid to the country.

Includes reporting by Muiris O’Cearbhaill, Jane Moore and © AFP 2024