UK demands explanation after deaths of British aid workers in Gaza

Wednesday, Apr 03, 2024

LONDON: The UK has called on Israel to “immediately investigate” the deaths of British nationals in an air strike in Gaza.

The Prime Minister said he was “shocked and saddened” by reports that seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers were killed in Gaza on Monday night.It is understood three British nationals were among those killed, alongside an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the aid workers were killed by an “unintended strike” by Israeli forces. Rishi Sunak told broadcasters during a visit to the north east of England: “We are asking Israel to investigate what happened urgently, because clearly there are questions that need to be answered.”

He added: “My thoughts are with their friends and family.“They are doing fantastic work bringing alleviation to the suffering that many are experiencing in Gaza. “They should be praised and commended for what they are doing. “They need to be allowed to do that work unhindered and it is incumbent on Israel to make sure they can do that.”

Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron said the Foreign Office was “working to verify” reports that British nationals were among the aid workers killed, adding that the Government wanted “a full, transparent explanation of what happened”.

Mr Netanyahu said in a statement: “Unfortunately over the last day there was a tragic incident of an unintended strike of our forces on innocent people in the Gaza Strip.”

He said officials were “checking this thoroughly” and “will do everything for this not to happen again”. The convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid taken to Gaza on the maritime route, WCK said.

The aid workers reportedly travelled in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft-skin vehicle. WCK immediately suspended operations in the region.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) “expressed the deepest condolences” to the families of the aid workers, and said it was “reviewing the incident at the highest levels”.

An IDF spokesman said: “Last night, an incident took place in Gaza that resulted in the tragic death of World Central Kitchen employees as they fulfilled their vital mission of bringing food to people in need. “As a professional military committed to international law, we are committed to examining our operations thoroughly and transparently.

“I just spoke to WCK Founder, Chef Jose Anders, and expressed the deepest condolences of the Israel Defence Forces to the families and the entire World Central Kitchen family.“We also express sincere sorrow to our allied nations who have been doing and continue to do so much to assist those in need. “We will be opening a probe to examine this serious incident further. “This will help us reduce the risk of such an event from occurring again. “The incident will be investigated in the Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism: an independent, professional, and expert body.”

Humanitarian organisation the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said the operation to recover the seven bodies took “several hours”. A spokesperson said in a statement: “In a challenging operation spanning several hours, teams from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society successfully recovered the bodies of the seven World Central Kitchen employees this morning.

“They were targeted by Israeli occupation forces yesterday evening while travelling in vehicles owned by the kitchen in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip.

“Two of the bodies were initially missing, but were later located and retrieved by the PRCS teams. “Subsequently, all seven bodies were transported to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah and then to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in preparation for their evacuation through the Rafah border crossing.”

WCK chief executive Erin Gore said the attack was “unforgivable”.She said: “This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable. “I am heartbroken and appalled that we – World Central Kitchen and the world – lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF.”

Alicia Kearns, chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, told the PA news agency that there must be a “thorough and swift” investigation into the incident.

She added: “There is also still no explanation for the bombing of the Medical Aid for Palestine complex in a safe zone, which had also been deconflicted directly with the IDF in January, which four British doctors fortunately survived.“Humanitarian agencies must be given the assurances they need that their people will be protected.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid tribute to 44-year-old Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom, who was among the dead, while the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said reports that a Polish national died are “credible”.