Founder claims aid workers ‘systematically’ targeted

WHO director-general condemns killings

Source: X/UN News

The bodies of foreign aid workers killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza have been brought to the crossing with Egypt as international outrage simmers.

The strike on Monday night hit a convoy of three vehicles and killed seven staff of the aid group World Central Kitchen, including Australian Zomi Frankcom, 43, citizens of Britain and Poland, a dual citizen of the US and Canada as well as a Palestinian colleague, who was buried at his home.

Their deaths prompted a wave of condemnation from some of Israel’s closest allies, including US President Joe Biden, who said he was “outraged” by what he said was “not a standalone incident”.

The World Central Kitchen aid workers who were killed in an Israeli air strike. Photo: AAP

WCK founder Jose Andres told Reuters the charity had clear communication with the Israeli military, which he said knew his workers’ movements.

This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops we dropped the bomb in the wrong place’,” Andres said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed Australian anger to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, demanding full transparency and accountability over the death. Albanese said Netanyahu committed to “full transparency” and a thorough investigation.

CNN reports the attack appears to have consisted of multiple precision strikes, based on analysis of aftermath videos and images found.

“CNN geolocated video and imagery of all three destroyed vehicles, at least one of which was clearly marked with a WCK logo on its roof, to two positions on the strip’s Al Rashid coastal road, and a third location on an off-road area of open ground nearby,” it said.

“The first location is around 2.4 kilometres from the third, indicating that the three vehicles were hit by separate strikes.”

More than two million people in Gaza are now almost completely reliant on aid shipments almost six months into Israel’s devastating siege and invasion of the territory triggered by Hamas’ October 7 cross-border attack.

In Gaza, there have been calls for stronger action to stop Israel continuing with a military campaign that local health authorities say has killed more than 32,000 people.

“This is a sign that the weapons provided by the British and American governments in support of the Israeli occupation army in weapons, money, and equipment do not differentiate between Palestinians and other nationalities,” said Marwan Al-Hams, director of the Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

The bodies of the seven aid workers were handed to UN officials at the Egyptian border for transport home.

In the aftermath of the attack, Israel acknowledged that its forces carried out the strike on the convoy but said it was unintentional.

It expressed “deep sorrow” and pledged a full, independent probe.

Israel’s military chief, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, announced the results of a preliminary investigation early on Wednesday.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification – at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

He gave no further details.

He said an independent body would conduct a “thorough investigation” that would be completed in the coming days.

IDF statement on aid workers

Source: Israel Defence Forces

Israel’s bombardment and invasion of Gaza followed the Hamas-led attack that killed about 1200 Israelis and foreigners, with more than 250 abducted into Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

However, the scale of the killing and the gathering humanitarian disaster in Gaza has led to a growing outcry outside Israel.

The United Nations has demanded that Israel do more to get humanitarian supplies into Gaza to alleviate hunger and ward off the threat of famine.

Prior to Monday’s incident, Israeli officials had said there were no restrictions on aid coming into the enclave and blamed aid organisations for not distributing the supplies effectively.

In Gaza, fighting continued on Wednesday, concentrated around the southern city of Khan Younis where medical officials said an Israeli strike killed three people.

In the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, which the Israeli army has not invaded, tank shelling killed four Palestinians in a south-east district, health officials said.

Pope deplores Gaza, Ukraine deaths

Pope Francis has issued a fresh appeal for peace in Gaza and Ukraine, deploring the killing of the aid workers and paying tribute to a Ukrainian soldier who died in the war against Russia.

“I express deep regret for the volunteers killed while they were engaged in distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza,” Francis said during his weekly audience on Wednesday.

“I pray for them and their families.”

The 87-year-old pontiff has been in poor health recently, limiting public speaking or cancelling some engagements during Easter week. But on Wednesday he took part in full in the outdoor audience.

He renewed calls for an “immediate” Gaza ceasefire, the release of all Israeli hostages kidnapped by Palestinian militants Hamas, full access for humanitarian aid, and warned against any “irresponsible” regional widening of the conflict.

Turning to “martyred” Ukraine, Francis told crowds in St Peter’s Square that he was holding in his hands a copy of the New Testament and rosary beads from slain 23-year-old Ukrainian soldier.

“I would like us all, in this moment, to have a bit of silence, thinking about this young man and many others like him who have died in this folly of war,” he said.

“War always destroys – let’s think about them and pray.”

Francis said the soldier, who he identified only as Oleksandr, died in Avdiivka, an eastern Ukrainian city captured by Russians in February.

He had already mentioned his belongings at another audience in March after they were given to him by a nun who had been on charity missions to Ukraine.

-with AAP

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