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Joe Biden criticises Israel for death of 7 aid workers in Gaza strike, says not enough done to protect civilians

Seven aid workers who were working for the World Central Kitchen, a charity delivering food to besieged Palestinians, were killed in the Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Tuesday.
Last Updated 03 April 2024, 03:10 IST

Washington: United States President Joe Biden has criticised Israel, saying it has not "has not done enough" to protect civilians as he expressed "outrage" over the deadly strike that killed seven aid workers, including one American, in Gaza.

Seven aid workers who were working for the World Central Kitchen, a charity delivering food to besieged Palestinians, were killed in the Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Tuesday.

The victims comprised three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian.

In a statement on Tuesday, Biden said he is “outraged and heartbroken” by the tragic incident.

“They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war. They were brave and selfless. Their deaths are a tragedy. Israel has pledged to conduct a thorough investigation into why the aid workers’ vehicles were hit by airstrikes. That investigation must be swift, it must bring accountability, and its findings must be made public,” he said.

“Even more tragically, this is not a stand-alone incident. This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed. This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult – because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians,” Biden said.

Noting that incidents like this simply should not happen, the president said Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians. The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties, he said.

Biden said that the "US will continue to do all we can, to deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, through all available means. I will continue to press Israel to do more to facilitate that aid. And we are pushing hard for an immediate ceasefire as part of a hostage deal. I have a team in Cairo working on this right now".

Earlier in the day, Biden spoke with Chef José Andrés, the founder of World Central Kitchen, to convey his deepest condolences for the deaths of these courageous aid workers and to express my continued support for his and his team’s relentless and heroic efforts to get food to hungry people around the globe.

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby told reporters that the US has seen the comments from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and from the Israeli defence forces about their commitment to conduct an investigation.

“As we understand it, a preliminary investigation has been completed today and presented to the army chief of staff and we'll obviously look to see what they discover in this preliminary one, but we expect the broader investigation to be conducted and to be done so in a swift and comprehensive manner,” he said.

“We hope that those findings will be made public and that there is appropriate accountability held, but more than 200 aid workers have been killed in this conflict, making it one of the worst for aid workers in recent history. This incident is emblematic of a larger problem and evidence of why distribution of aid in Gaza has been so challenging,” Kirby said.

Announcing the results of a preliminary investigation early Wednesday, Israel's military chief Lt Gen Herzi Halevi expressed remorse over the killings and called the event a “grave mistake”.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the killing of seven World Central Kitchen workers delivering deeply needed food aid in Gaza is an outrage.

“The government of Israel must allow the flow of life-saving aid to innocent families in Gaza and ensure safe passage for those delivering the aid. Hunger cannot be a weapon of war. We must share our food and our humanity,” Pelosi said.

Senator Chris Murphy, Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism said that the World Central Kitchen volunteers have played a heroic role in getting food to innocent civilians facing famine inside Gaza.

“The deaths of these seven aid workers, killed by Israeli airstrikes, are outrageous, and underscore the continued need for Israel to set up a working deconfliction mechanism with humanitarian organizations to prevent these tragedies from happening,” he said.

“Since this incident, aid ships carrying 240 tons of additional humanitarian aid have left Gaza’s shore and turned back toward Cyprus, and the UAE is pausing its support of the maritime corridor,” Murphy said.

With the sea route shutting down and delivery of aid via land routes already far too restricted, it is near impossible for enough urgently needed humanitarian assistance to reach Gaza. Israel must immediately suspend military operations inside Gaza and allow for a dramatic surge in humanitarian aid, he said.

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(Published 03 April 2024, 03:10 IST)

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