Israeli strike kills 7 aid workers and halts food charity's operations in Gaza


DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen, leading the charity to suspend delivery Tuesday of vital food aid to Gaza.

Ships still laden with some 240 tons of aid from the charity that arrived just a day earlier turned back from Gaza, according to Cyprus, which has played a key role in trying to establish a sea route to bring food to the territory.

Israel's military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, announced the results of a preliminary investigation early Wednesday.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification – at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said. He gave no further details. He said an independent body would conduct a “thorough investigation” that would be completed in the coming days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier acknowledged the “unintended strike ... on innocent people” and said officials would work to ensure it does not happen again.

World Central Kitchen said it had coordinated with the Israeli military over the movement of the cars carrying the workers as they left northern Gaza late Monday. Footage of the aftermath showed a vehicle with the charity’s logo printed across its roof to make it identifiable from the air. The projectile punched a large hole through the roof. Two other vehicles in the convoy were incinerated and mangled.

Those killed include three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian, according to hospital records.

The killings threatened to have repercussions on multiple levels, as the dead were citizens of some of Israel’s closest allies.

The strike could also set back efforts by the U.S. and other countries to open a maritime corridor for aid from Cyprus that would help ease the growing humanitarian disaster in Gaza’s north. World Central Kitchen, a food charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, was key to the new route.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said Tuesday that ship deliveries would continue. 

The U.S., Britain, Poland and Australia called for an investigation or an explanation from Israel over the aid workers’ deaths. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered the forming of a “professional team” to investigate the strike and the opening of a joint situation room enabling coordination between the military and aid groups.

Andrés — whose World Central Kitchen charity operates in several countries wracked by wars or natural disasters — said he was “heartbroken” by the deaths of the staffers.

Anera, a Washington-based aid group that has been operating in the Palestinian territories for decades, said that in the wake of the strike it was taking the “unprecedented” step of pausing its own operations in Gaza, where it had been helping to provide around 150,000 meals daily.

“The escalating risks associated with aid delivery leave us with no choice,” it said in a statement.

The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel in a surprise attack on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostages. Israel responded with one of the deadliest and most destructive offensives in recent history.

Monday’s strike on the aid workers came hours after a new delivery with some 400 tons of food and supplies organized by World Central Kitchen and the United Arab Emirates arrived in three ships from Cyprus, following a pilot run last month.

Around 100 tons were unloaded before the charity suspended operations, and the rest was being taken back to Cyprus, Cypriot Foreign Ministry spokesman Theodoros Gotsis said.