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Peace and Conflict

Israel apologises for the death of aid workers | Update 3rd April 2024

Israel apologises for the death of aid workers via BICom

What happened: IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi has responded to the tragic accidental killing of seven members from the World Central Kitchen (WCK).  

  • Among the seven killed were three British victims: John Chapman, 57, a former UK special forces soldier; James Henderson, 33, a former Royal Marine; and James Kirby, 47. All were part of the WCK security team.
  • Halevi noted, “WCK is an organisation whose people work across the globe, including in Israel, to do good in difficult conditions. The IDF works together closely with the WCK and greatly appreciates the important work that they do.”
  • He related to the results of a preliminary investigation, “the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers. It was a mistake that followed a misidentification – at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened.”
  • Halevi added, “This incident was a grave mistake. Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the people of Gaza. We are sorry for the unintentional harm to the members of WCK. We share in the grief of their families, as well as the entire WCK Organisation, from the bottom of our hearts.”
  • In addition, IDF Spokesperson, Daniel Hagari said yesterday, “As a professional military committed to international law, we are committed to examining our operations thoroughly and transparently. I just spoke to WCK Founder, Chef Jose Anders, and expressed the deepest condolences of the Israel Defence Forces to the families and the entire WCK family. We also express sincere sorrow to our allied nations who have been doing and continue to do so much to assist those in need.”
  • Defence Minister Gallant said, “IDF soldiers cope every day with a complex operational reality, but the coordination mechanism for distribution of humanitarian aid and cooperation with international organisations has to be strengthened.”

International responses: The WCK released a statement that noted, “Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.”

  • US President Biden said, “I am outraged and heartbroken by the deaths of seven humanitarian workers from WCK, including one American, in Gaza yesterday. They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war. They were brave and selfless. Their deaths are a tragedy.”
  • Prime Minister Sunak spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu, telling him, "far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza and the situation is increasingly intolerable."
  • Foreign Secretary Cameron said: “These were people who were working to deliver life-saving aid to those who desperately need it. It is essential that humanitarian workers are protected and able to carry out their work. We have called on Israel to immediately investigate and provide a full, transparent explanation of what happened.”
  • Cameron added, “I spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Katz to underline that the deaths of WCK aid workers in Gaza, including three British Nationals, are completely unacceptable. Israel must urgently explain how this happened & make major changes to ensure safety of aid workers on the ground.”
  • Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Hotovely was summoned by Foreign Office Minister Andrew Mitchell, during which Mitchell “requested a quick and transparent investigation, shared with the international community, and full accountability.”
  • The UAE government, one of the main funders of the humanitarian maritime corridor to Gaza said they would only renew its involvement if Israel were to provide assurances that aid workers would not be attacked again.

Context: WCK is one of the Israel’s preferred humanitarian partners operating inside Gaza assisting the Gazan civilian population.

  • WCK were also one of the first international NGOs to help Israelis after the massacre of October 7th.
  • Despite Israel taking responsibility, from Israel’s perspective the overall blame is on Hamas, for starting this war. Hamas has in the past embedded itself within other international aid organisations (not WCK) and continues to appropriate aid designated for their own civilians.
  • The onus remains on Hamas to release the hostages and bring an end to the conflict.
  • In these type of incidents, the IDF hands over their material to the “Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism” (FFAM), which is considered an independent, professional, and expert body.
  • In parallel yesterday, the Israeli government responded to a High Court appeal by human rights organisations to outline the extent of the aid it has helped facilitate in allowing to enter the Strip since the start of the war, this included:
    • 252,585, tonnes of food in 12,000 aid trucks.
    • 401 cooking gas tanks.
    • 3.3 million cubic metres of water via new lines.
    • 28,100 tonnes of water via aid trucks.
    • 19,805 tonnes of medical equipment in 1,705 trucks.

Looking ahead: The incident will now be investigated fully. Halevi announced, “An independent body will investigate the incident thoroughly,  we will complete it in the next coming days. We will learn from the conclusions, and implement them immediately. We will share, in full transparency, the findings of the investigation with the World Central Kitchen and other international relevant organisations.”

  • In addition, a new Humanitarian Command Centre will be established under the IDF Southern Command alongside international organisations to prevent incidents of this kind in future.

via BICom