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NGOs seek probe into killing of aid workers

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-09 09:39
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A person looks at a vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the central Gaza Strip April 2, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

The call from food charity World Central Kitchen, or WCK, for an independent investigation into the killing of its aid workers by the Israeli military has won the support of other nonprofit organizations, or NGOs.

Several NGOs, some of which have lost their workers in the ongoing conflict, joined the call to halt what they referred to as "Israel's bloody military campaign with total disrespect for international laws".

On April 1, indignation erupted over the death of seven WCK workers after the Israeli military attacked their three-vehicle convoy that had clear markings with logos of the organization. On Friday, the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, presented its findings in a video posted on X.

The IDF called the killing of the WCK workers "a grave mistake, stemming from serious operational failures, mistaken classification and identification, errors in decision-making, and strikes that were conducted in violation of standard operation procedures".

On Saturday, a WCK statement welcomed IDF's admission and for owning responsibility for the "fatal errors". Two Israeli officers were dismissed and three others were reprimanded.

However, the WCK reiterated that "without systemic change", there "will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families".

It noted that the IDF had "acknowledged that our teams followed all proper communications procedures" and that the IDF's video "fails to show any cause to fire on our personnel convoy, which carried no weapons and posed no threat".

"Their apologies for the outrageous killing of our colleagues represent cold comfort," said WCK CEO Erin Gore.

In light of the killings of WCK's aid workers, six heads of United States-based NGOs operating in Gaza — Anera, CARE USA, Humanity & Inclusion, MedGlobal, Project HOPE, and Save the Children — wrote a letter to US President Joe Biden on Thursday.

The letter demanded an independent investigation, withholding offensive arms transfers to the Israeli government, and an immediate and permanent cease-fire.

They called the deaths of the aid workers "entirely preventable" and "just the latest example of disturbing aid worker casualties in Gaza at the hands of Israeli forces".

Nagapushpa Devendra, a West Asia analyst and research scholar at the University of Erfurt in Germany, said that the "major problem" is that Israel's actions are jeopardizing aid efforts.

"The recent incidents question Israeli dedication to its commitment to the flow of humanitarian aid in Gaza."

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