Israeli strike at Hamas kills 7 aid workers in Gaza; Netanyahu expresses “regret”, Biden “outraged”

There is contrition in Israel and anger in the United States over the death of seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza — the aid workers were caught in the crossfire of the war that broke out on October 7, 2023, after the massive Hamas terrorist attack launched from Gaza Strip at southern Israel.

International aid workers killed in an Israel strike in Gaza
These seven international aid workers of the charity World Central Kitchen have been killed in an Israel strike in Gaza. Photo courtesy:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged the seven deaths and expressed “regret”, while President of the United States Joe Biden said that he was “outraged” by the incident, which came to light on April 2, 2024.

As the war nears the six-month milestone, the world wants a ceasefire, but Israel first wants all its October 7 hostages released by Hamas. In this theatre of war, it was revealed on April 2 that seven aid workers — present in a convoy from World Central Kitchen (WCK) — were killed in an Israeli strike meant for Hamas. The convoy was hit despite prior co-ordination between the global charity and the Israeli military.

A BBC report said, quoting the WCK, that the killed aid workers were British, Polish, Australian, a dual American-Canadian citizen, and a Palestinian. It added that the bodies of six foreigner victims were in the process of being transported to Egypt via the Rafah Crossing in Gaza. The eastern border of Egypt touches Gaza Strip and southern Israel.

Acknowledging that the Israeli military strike had hit “non-combatants”, Prime Minister Netanyahu said in an X post (from the handle @IsraeliPM) on April 2 evening: “Unfortunately, in the past day there was a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip. This happens in war. We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence.”

A few hours later, late at night on April 2, Netanyahu posted on X (from the handle @netanyahu): “Israel deeply regrets the tragic incident which claimed the lives of seven humanitarian aid workers.”

Promising action, this post said: “Our hearts go out to their families and to their home countries.

“The IDF is conducting a swift and transparent investigation and we will make our findings public.

“Israel is fully committed to enabling humanitarian aid to reach the civilian population in Gaza and we will do everything in our power to ensure that such tragedies do not occur in the future.”

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while being discharged from Hadassah-Ein Kerem Hospital on April 2. “We continued to work even from here,” he posted online. Photo courtesy: X/@IsraeliPM

However, there was a surge of anger in the United States, historically the closest political ally of Israel.

President Biden posted on X (from the handle @POTUS) early on April 3: “I am outraged and heartbroken by the deaths of seven humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen, including one American, in Gaza yesterday. Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen.”

The full statement by President Biden, linked to his X post, said flat out that “Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers” doing humanitarian work for Gaza civilians.

Charity suspends Gaza aid work, mourns “heroes”

In view of the seven deaths of the WCK workers, the international aid community has demanded better measures from the Israeli authorities to keep their staff and volunteers safe in Gaza.

The WCK website released a composite photo of the seven workers, headlined ‘The WCK family mourns the loss of these heroes’. A related statement from the charity’s CEO Erin Gore said: “These are the heroes of WCK. These 7 beautiful souls were killed by the IDF in a strike as they were returning from a full day’s mission. Their smiles, laughter, and voices are forever embedded in our memories.”

According to a report in The Guardian, an aid worker said on condition of anonymity, “What happened is above all else a tragedy, but I would be surprised if coordination [with Israeli forces] continues in the same way it did in the past.”

A BBC report said yesterday that following the death of its team members, the WCK was suspending operations in Gaza. The report said: “WCK is one of the main suppliers of desperately needed aid to Gaza. It said that it would ‘be making decisions about the future of [its] work soon’. According to the charity, the aid convoy was hit while 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.’”