Israel pledges independent probe of Gaza NGO deaths

Israel pledges independent probe of Gaza NGO deaths

Military admits ‘tragic’ air strike killed seven food aid workers

A man looks at a vehicle in which employees of the NGO World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza. (Photo: Reuters)
A man looks at a vehicle in which employees of the NGO World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza. (Photo: Reuters)

JERUSALEM - The Israeli military says an “independent, professional expert body” will investigate the deaths of seven people working for the World Central Kitchen (WCK) in Gaza, which the NGO said was the result of an Israeli air strike.

The military admitted that one of its strikes in Gaza caused the deaths of the aid workers, and that its top general would review the findings of a preliminary inquiry.

“The tragic incident [Monday] night occurred as a result of an IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) strike and we are investigating the circumstances,” a military statement said. 

The people killed in the strike included citizens of Australia, Britain and Poland as well as Palestinians and a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. WCK said they were travelling in two armoured cars emblazoned with the charity’s logo and in another vehicle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regret and sorrow over the killings, describing the incident as tragic and unintended.

“This happens in wartime. We are thoroughly looking into it, are in contact with the governments (of the foreigners among the dead) and will do everything to ensure it does not happen again,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.

He said he had spoken to the WCK founder, celebrity chef Jose Anders, and expressed deepest condolences.

“We also express sincere sorrow to our allied nations who have been doing and continue to do so much to assist those in need,” he said in the statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington had urged Israel to carry out a “swift, thorough and impartial” investigation into the air strike.

In a related development, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that the destruction of Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza amounted to “ripping the heart out” of the health system of the war-torn Palestinian enclave.

“Destroying Al Shifa means ripping the heart out of the health system,” said WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris .

“It was the place people go to for the kind of care that a really good health system provides, that we in all our societies expect to have should we be in need.”

Israeli forces left Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Monday after a two-week operation by special forces, who detained hundreds of suspected Palestinian militants and left a wasteland of destroyed buildings.

At least 32,916 Palestinians have been killed and 75,494 wounded in Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip since Oct 7, the Palestinian enclave’s health ministry said on Tuesday.

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