Israel to ‘adjust’ tactics after aid worker deaths

PM demands answers over Australian death

Source: X/Anthony Albanese

Israel says it will adjust its Gaza war tactics after killing seven aid workers in air strikes its military has acknowledged were a major mistake, and that inquiry findings would be made public soon.

Monday’s incident has stoked international anger at the mounting civilian toll in the Palestinian enclave, especially as the slain World Central Kitchen staff included Australian Zomi Frankcom plus citizens of Britain and Poland, as well as a US-Canadian dual citizen.

At least 196 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza since October, according to the United Nations.

Israel’s leaders have voiced sorrow over what the military called a “grave mistake” after the misidentification of a WCK convoy at night in a complex combat zone.

Charity founder chef Jose Andres said the convoy was “systematically” targeted even though Israel’s military was aware of his staff’s movements.

Asked to respond at a media briefing, Israeli government spokeswoman Raquela Karamson said: “This was unintended.”

“Clearly something went wrong here, and as we learn more and the investigation reveals exactly what happened, and the cause of what happened, we will certainly adjust our practices in the future to make sure this does not happen again.”

She said publication of the investigation’s findings could take weeks.

But the chief Israeli military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, appeared to give a much shorter timeline.

An investigators’ report was given to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday, Hagari said.

“I believe that, after we present this to the ambassadors from the respective countries, and to the members of the WCK organisation, we will make it public in a clear, transparent manner – and that will happen soon,” he said.

The seven World Central Kitchen aid workers who were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza.

Speculation on cause

Israel Ziv, a retired army general who formerly commanded the Gaza division, said the incident may have resulted from the military enabling more junior officers to authorise air strikes.

In quieter periods such an operation would require a green light from a division commander or a general in charge of regional forces, he said. But “in wartime the situation is utterly transformed, because the number of threats is never-ending”.

“If you don’t allow greater latitude, further down the ranks, on opening fire, you endanger the troops and the war.”

Ziv noted that Israel, which went to war after Hamas gunmen rampaged in its southern towns and army bases on October 7, has been fighting both to destroy the Palestinian Islamists’ military capacity and deny them access to humanitarian aid sent to Gaza.

“That complicates the situation,” he told Reuters.

First step

As a preliminary move to make amends for the WCK deaths, Israel said it would set up a joint operational co-ordination room with humanitarian agencies, located within the military’s Southern Command – where Gaza missions are directly managed.

An Israeli security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said ground forces in Gaza were down to about a quarter of their numbers at the height of the invasion, and focused on more pinpoint missions and securing conquered areas.

“This may have contributed to a feeling of ‘sitting duck’ vulnerability. Troops prefer to be on the offensive, rather than static and potentially open to attack or to seeing the enemy operate with relative freedom,” the official said.

“The investigation will have to determine, among other things, whether this kind of thinking affected the judgement of whoever decided that the convoy should be struck.”

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, Gazan medical officials say.

Hamas has said 6000 of its fighters are among the fatalities.

Israeli officials say the Palestinian combatant death toll is more than twice as high.

Biden warning

US President Joe Biden told Netanyahu on Thursday that future US support for the Gaza war would be determined by whether Israel took steps to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians and aid workers.

“He made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” the White House said in a statement following the leaders’ call.

“He made clear that US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”


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