Netanyahu on WCK strike: Israel ‘unintentionally’ hit ‘innocent people.’ Live updates

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Celebrity chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, among the largest providers of desperately needed humanitarian aid to Gaza, is pausing its operations following the deaths of 7 workers in an Israeli airstrike, the organization said Tuesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said an investigation into “a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people” was underway.

Despite coordinating movements with the Israeli military, the convoy was hit Monday as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, WCK said. The team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.

The workers killed include Palestinians and citizens from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, and a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada. Andrés, in a social media post, said he had served alongside the victims in Gaza, Ukraine, and other countries.

“They are not faceless. They are not nameless. The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing,” Andrés said. “It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon.”

The tragedy could worsen the already-critical food crisis in the enclave. Cyprus, which helped provide the sea route bringing aid to Gaza, said ships that recently arrived were turning back with more than 200 tons of undelivered aid, the Associated Press reported.

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Netanyahu calls deaths unintentional and says ‘it happens in war’

Netanyahu vowed Tuesday to probe the deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers.

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

The Israeli military issued a statement pledging to “get to the root of the matter” and publicly release the findings of the probe.

“They were fulfilling their vital mission to bring food to those in need,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari said. “As a professional army bound by international law, we are obliged to examine our actions in a thorough and transparent manner.”

Staff members of the U.S.-based aid group World Central Kitchen wait at a hospital morgue in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024, a day after a convoy of the NGO was hit in an Israeli strike.

World Central Kitchen pauses aid effort in Gaza

World Central Kitchen said it will immediately pause operations in the region and will be “making decisions about the future of its operations soon.”

“I am heartbroken and appalled that we, World Central Kitchen, and the world lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the Israeli military,” CEO Erin Gore said. “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.”

UN agency has cited obstacles to food aid for months

The United Nations agency charged with leading the humanitarian aid effort in Gaza has complained for months about obstacles created by Israeli officials. In a report issued Monday, prior to the WCK tragedy, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said that “access impediments continue to severely compromise the ability of humanitarian actors to reach people in the Gaza Strip.” Since March 1, 30% of humanitarian aid missions to northern Gaza have been denied by Israeli authorities, the agency said.

“UNRWA is disproportionately impacted, with Israeli authorities continuing to deny UNRWA access to northern Gaza to deliver emergency food assistance,” the report said.

The obstacles prompted other efforts, including sea shipment, such as the one World Central Kitchen was using on Monday. The U.S., partnering with Jordan and other regional nations, has also used airdrops. But trucking aid in from Egypt is viewed as the best method for meeting the tremendous demand.

There have been victories. Since the war began almost six months ago, over 1.8 million people, or 85% of the population, have been provided with flour, the report said. Nearly 600,000 people have received emergency food parcels, and almost 3.6 million patient consultations have been provided at health centers and points, the agency said.

But the WCK tragedy is far from the first involving aid workers. The UNRWA said 173 of its workers have been killed since the war began.

WCK: Food being used as weapon of war

Andrés and his wife, Patricia, founded the organization in 2010 after a catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, and since then, they have served millions of meals to people recovering from hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, and volcano eruptions around the world.

“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,” Gore said. “This is unforgivable.”