Israel admits errors in strike on aid workers, fires two army officers

Published April 6, 2024
Members of Palestinian factions in Syria take part in a parade marking Al Quds Day, at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus.—Reuters
Members of Palestinian factions in Syria take part in a parade marking Al Quds Day, at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus.—Reuters

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military dismissed two officers and formally reprimanded senior commanders on Friday after an inquiry into the killing of seven aid workers in an air strike in Gaza this week found serious errors and breaches of procedure.

The inquiry found Israeli forces mistakenly believed they were attacking Hamas fighters when drones hit the three vehicles of the World Central Kitchen aid group late on Monday night, and that standard procedures had not been followed.

“The strike on the aid vehicles is a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the standard operating procedures,” the military said in a statement issued on Friday.

The killing of the seven aid workers, who included citizens of Britain, Australia and Poland, a dual US-Canadian national and a Palestinian colleague, stirred global outragethis week.

In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, US President Joe Biden threatened a shift in US policy towards Israel unless it reduced harm to civilians in Gaza, which had depended on aid even before the war. Hunger has spread since fighting began six months ago.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday Washington was carefully reviewing Israel’s inquiry and would look very carefully at what steps Israel was taking.

“It’s very important that Israel is taking full responsibility for this incident. It’s also important that it appears to be taking steps to hold those responsible accountable. Even more important is that steps are being taken going forward to ensure that something like this can never happen again,” Blinken told reporters in Brussels.

After publication of the findings, World Central Kitchen demanded an independent commission to investigate the incident. “Without systemic change, there will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families,” said a statement published by WCK.

The Israeli army (IDF) had already acknowledged that the seven WCK employees were killed in an air strike but the unusually swift investigation underlined the impact the incident has had on world public opinion.

Jose Andres, the chef who founded World Central Kitchen, said this week the seven workers had been targeted “systematically, car by car” as they scrambled to seek shelter when their vehicles were hit in succession.

The military said it had dismissed a brigade chief of staff with the rank of colonel and a brigade fire support officer with the rank of major, and formally reprimanded senior officers, including the general at the head of the Southern Command.

The case was also handed over to the military advocate general to consider a possible criminal investigation, the military said.

200 tons of food

The convoy hit was the second of four planned missions to deliver some 200 tons of food brought to Gaza by sea last month under WCK management as part of efforts to increase the amount of aid getting into Israeli-besieged Gaza.

The military said that as the aid convoy which the light vehicles were accompanying was travelling down the coastal road in Gaza towards a logistics point late on Monday, armed suspects had climbed onto at least one of the trucks.

The army showed reporters drone footage of a man on top of a lorry firing a rifle, which a spokesperson said had prompted the military to try, unsuccessfully, to contact WCK coordinators.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2024

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