Israeli strike on aid workers tests West’s loyalty 

Not only is President Netanyahu taking advantage of global relief organizations, he's negligent in providing them adequate security

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Editorials

April 4, 2024 - 3:30 PM

United Nations staff members inspect the carcass of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen, that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. The international food aid charity said it was pausing its Gaza aid operations after seven of its staff were killed in a “targeted Israeli strike” as they unloaded desperately needed food aid delivered by sea from Cyprus. (Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images/TNS)

Every day, volunteers risk their lives in relief efforts in Gaza.

On Monday, seven associated with the World Central Kitchen were killed, targeted by an Israeli military drone hovering above their three-car convoy.

Because the process requires coordination with Israel’s military, they were aware of World Central Kitchen’s movements that night, the charity said.

Military experts say the convoy was struck by small, “highly precise” munitions in the dark of the night.

The aid workers had just left a warehouse in Deir al Balah, a city in the central Gaza Strip, where they had unloaded food ferried across the Mediterranean from Cyprus.

By day’s end, they had unloaded about one-third of the 332 tons that had arrived earlier.

Reports say the volunteers — primarily Westerners — were jubilant over the aid. It felt like Christmas.

Members of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, another humanitarian organization, responded to Monday’s attack. When they arrived, they found the three vehicles destroyed, along with the victims’ bodies. Papers identifying their affiliation with World Central Kitchen lay charred and scattered about along with their passports. Poland. The United States. Australia. The United Kingdom.

Two men comfort each other as they receive the bodies of the World Central Kitchen workers. (Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images/TNS)

Spanish chef José Andrés founded the U.S.-based World Central Kitchen, delivering millions of meals. 

After Monday’s attack, Andrés suspended the nonprofit’s relief efforts there and sent three ships loaded with hundreds of tons of food back to port in Cyprus.

Other volunteer organizations are following suit. The risk is too great.

So far, 196 volunteers have died in their efforts to help the hundreds of thousands caught in the six-month war between Israel and Hamas. 

Unless a permanent ceasefire is called, more are on the horizon.

Half of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are facing “catastrophic food insecurity,” according to the United Nations. In the north, hundreds of thousands are on the brink of famine.

Over the course of the conflict Israel’s President Binyamin Netanyahu has refused to order the Israeli army to distribute aid in Gaza itself, preferring to allow volunteers assume the risk.

Netanyahu, perhaps numbed by the war’s mounting death toll — now 32,000, of which an estimated 29,000 are Palestinians — called Monday’s attack “tragic,” before qualifying, “This is what happens in war.”

President Joe Biden went further, saying he was “outraged and heartbroken,” adding that it was not a “stand-alone incident,” and that he will “continue to press Israel to do more to facilitate humanitarian aid” in Gaza.

Whether the most recent attack is the last straw, Biden’s clearly rethinking the United States’ commitments, saying, “We are pushing hard for an immediate cease-fire as part of a hostage deal.” 

It can’t come too soon.

— Susan Lynn

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