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Israel's military dismisses officers over World Central Kitchen airstrike

Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip.
Ismael Abu Dayyah
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AP
Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel's military says its investigation into airstrikes Tuesday that killed seven aid workers in Gaza concluded that the strikes were carried out "in serious violation" of military operating procedures, and that senior military officers would be dismissed and reprimanded.

The deadly Israeli strikes on a three-car convoy of the food charity World Central Kitchen — running one of the most prominent aid operations in Gaza to address a dire shortage of food — mark the first time visiting international aid workers, including one U.S. citizen, have been killed in Gaza during Israel's ongoing offensive.

The incident marks a turning point in the war, with President Biden saying he would condition U.S. policy in Gaza on Israel taking steps to protect civilians and aid workers. Local aid workers with the United Nations and other aid groups have been killed in Israeli strikes previously.

World Central Kitchen welcomed the Israeli military investigation and disciplinary action against military officials, but it called for an "independent commission" to investigate the strikes.

"The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza," the group said in a statement, using the initials for the Israel Defense Forces.

In a briefing to journalists late Thursday, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari and Yoav Har-Even, who heads the military's unit that investigates allegations of misconduct, described "a lot of mistakes" that led to the deadly strikes.

When a three-car convoy left the warehouse, soldiers thought the group entering a vehicle was carrying a rifle when, in hindsight, it appears to have been only a bag, the military officials said in the press briefing.

Israel's aerial surveillance cameras could not identify World Central Kitchen's logos on the roofs of the vehicles because it was nighttime, past 10 p.m., the military said.

People inspect the site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. World Central Kitchen, an aid group, says an Israeli strike that hit its workers in Gaza killed seven people.
Abdel Kareem Hana / AP
/
AP
People inspect the site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday. World Central Kitchen, an aid group, says an Israeli strike that hit its workers in Gaza killed seven people.

A commander "mistakenly assumed that the gunmen were located inside the accompanying vehicles and that these were Hamas terrorists," the military said in awritten statement Friday. "The forces did not identify the vehicles in question as being associated with WCK."

The statement said two officers were dismissed over the incident, the brigade fire support commander, a major, and the brigade chief of staff, a reserve colonel.

Two others will be formally reprimanded: the brigade commander, a colonel, and a division commander, a brigadier general.

"The investigation's findings indicate that the incident should not have occurred," the military said in its statement. "Those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives and not WCK employees. 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 it had briefed World Central Kitchen on the findings. It expressed "deep sorrow" for the deaths of the seven aid workers and said it would continue to coordinate international aid activities and protect aid workers' lives.

"The root cause of the unjustified rocket fire on our convoy is the severe lack of food in Gaza," World Central Kitchen said in its response to the military investigation. "Israel needs to dramatically increase the volume of food and medicine traveling by land if it is serious about supporting humanitarian aid."

Alon Avital in Tel Aviv contributed reporting.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.

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