Bodies of aid workers killed in Israeli strikes transported out of Gaza – National


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The bodies of six foreign aid workers killed in Israeli airstrikes began the journey back to their home countries Wednesday as they were transported out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt, Palestinian officials said.

The deadly strikes have renewed criticism of Israel’s conduct in the nearly six-month-old conflict with Hamas and highlighted the risks to aid workers as they try to deliver food to the besieged enclave. The U.N. says nearly a third of the Gaza population is on the brink of starvation.

The three British citizens, a Polish citizen, an Australian and a Canadian-American dual citizen worked for World Central Kitchen, an international charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés. Their Palestinian driver was also killed, and his remains were handed over to his family for burial in Gaza.

Click to play video: '7 aid workers, including Canadian-American, killed in Israeli strike identified'

7 aid workers, including Canadian-American, killed in Israeli strike identified

The other bodies were driven into Egypt through the Rafah crossing, according to the Palestinian Crossings Authority, which oversees border crossings.

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The seven were distributing food that had been brought into Gaza through a newly established maritime corridor when Israeli airstrikes targeted their three vehicles late Monday, killing everyone inside.

Israel said it carried out the strikes by mistake and that it has launched an investigation. World Central Kitchen said it had coordinated its movements with the military, and the vehicles were marked with the organization’s logo.

Some of Israel’s closest allies condemned the deaths, which led the World Central Kitchen and other charities to suspend food deliveries, citing the dire security situation.

Israel faces growing isolation as international criticism of its Gaza assault has mounted. On the same day as the deadly airstrikes, Israel stirred more fears by apparently striking Iran’s consulate in Damascus, killing two Iranian generals. The government also moved to shut down a foreign media outlet — Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television.

Click to play video: 'Gaza crisis: U.S. frustration with Israel grows after aid workers killed'

Gaza crisis: U.S. frustration with Israel grows after aid workers killed

The hit on the charity’s convoy highlighted what critics have called Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and lack of regard for civilian casualties in Gaza.

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In an op-ed published by Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper on Wednesday, Andrés wrote that “the Israeli government needs to open land routes to food and medicine today. It needs to stop killing civilians and aid workers today.”

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Andrés, whose organization has provided aid in war and disaster zones all over the world, including to Israelis after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that triggered the conflict, said the strikes “were not just some unfortunate mistake in the fog of war.”

“It was a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by” the Israeli military. “It was also the direct result of (the Israeli) government’s policy to squeeze humanitarian aid to desperate levels,” Andrés wrote.

Israel has severely restricted access to northern Gaza, where experts say famine is imminent. More than 180 humanitarian workers have been killed in Israel’s assault, according to the U.N.

The deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers threatened to set back efforts by the U.S. and other countries to open a maritime corridor for aid from Cyprus to help ease the desperate conditions in northern Gaza.

Click to play video: 'IDF strike which killed 7 aid workers in Gaza leads to calls for Israel to be held accountable'

IDF strike which killed 7 aid workers in Gaza leads to calls for Israel to be held accountable

Some 240 tons of newly arrived but undelivered aid from the charity were returned by ship to the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus. Still, Cyprus said sea deliveries of aid would continue.

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U.S. President Joe Biden issued an unusually blunt criticism of Israel by its closest ally, suggesting that the incident demonstrated that Israel was not doing enough to protect civilians.

“Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen,” he said. “The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties.”

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.

Successive strikes hit the three vehicles that were large distances apart, indicating precise targeting. At least one of the vehicles had the charity’s logo printed across its roof to make it identifiable from the air, and the ordnance punched a large hole through the roof.

Meanwhile, Monday’s strike on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus — which the U.S. assessed was carried out by Israel — hiked fears of a wider conflict. The strike killed 12 people.

Gen. Ramazan Sharif, a spokesman for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, said Wednesday that “soon we will see deadlier blows” against Israel by “the Resistance Front.”

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He appeared to be referring to Iran and its allies across the region, including the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other armed groups in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. They have repeatedly traded fire with Israel and the U.S. since the start of the war in Gaza.

The top U.S. Air Force commander for the Middle East, Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, said Wednesday that the U.S. is concerned that the Damascus strike could trigger new attacks on American troops by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.

Militias launched repeated attacks on U.S. forces at bases in those countries late last year, and in late January killed three U.S. service members and injured dozens more in Jordan.

In retaliation, the U.S. launched a massive air assault, hitting seven locations in Iraq and Syria connected to militias or the Guard’s Quds Force. There have been no attacks on U.S. troops in the region since.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel is “increasing preparedness” and “expanding our operations against Hezbollah and against other bodies that threaten us.”

Nearly 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s assault in Gaza, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count.

Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks killed some 1,200 people and resulted in around 250 being taken hostage.

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Hamas still holds an estimated 100 hostages and the remains of around 30 others, after most of the rest were freed last year in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

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Bodies of aid workers killed in Israeli strikes transported out of Gaza – National

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