Middle East crisis live: Netanyahu admits Israeli forces killed Gaza aid workers in ‘tragic’ strike

3 weeks ago

Summary of the day so far …

Israel’s prime minister has admitted Israeli forces killed seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza in an airstrike yesterday. Saying “This happens in wartime,” Benjamin Netanyahu described it as “a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip.”

Three of the seven people killed were British nationals. The UK summoned the Israeli ambassador in London saying Israel must “put in place an effective deconfliction mechanism immediately and urgently to scale up humanitarian access”. The UK’s foreign secretary David Cameron said the deaths were “completely unacceptable”.

The group had been travelling in two armoured vehicles branded with the World Central Kitchen (WCK) charity’s logo. WCK said those killed were from the UK, Australia, Poland and Palestine, as well as a US-Canada dual citizen. The charity said it was suspending operations in the Palestinian territory.

US president Joe Biden’s administration said it had been in touch with José Andrés, who founded WCK. Secretary of state Antony Blinken said the US had also spoken directly to the Israeli government about the issue. He told the media “We’ve urged a swift, a thorough and impartial investigation to understand exactly what happened.”

France’s foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné on Tuesday said his country “strongly condemned” the Israeli airstrike, which “nothing can justify”.

Israel has said it plans to open a joint situation room with international groups to enable the coordination of humanitarian aid. WCK on Monday said in its statement about the attack that “Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse.”

Cyprus said on Tuesday afternoon that ships that recently arrived in Gaza were turning back with 240 tonnes of undelivered aid. “At least two-thirds of the assistance is on its way back,” Cyprus’s foreign minister spokesperson, Theodoros Gotsis, told the Guardian.

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric has said that the organisation’s secretary-general António Guterres condemns an attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, calling for “utmost restraint”. The attack, which killed at least 11 people, including a senior commander in the al-Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has been widely attributed to Israel. Turkey said the attack was a violation of international law by Israel. Iran’s leaders in Tehran described the targeting of a diplomatic mission late on Monday as unprecedented and promised a harsh response.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant said Israel would “act everywhere, every day to prevent the force buildup of our enemies. We are in a multi-front war, in the offence and defence. We see evidence of this every day, including in recent days”. He said Israel was acting “to make it clear to everyone who acts against us, all over the Middle East, that the price for acting against Israel will be a heavy price.”

Israel’s delegation will return from Cairo having formulated a new proposal for a ceasefire and hostage release deal with Hamas, according to reports.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the destruction of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza amounted to “ripping the heart out” of the health system of the territory.

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Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid is reportedly going to make a visit to Washington, DC, next week.

There isn’t much detail about but Lapid is the main political rival to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and this past weekend he called the current crisis “an existential moment” for Israel and said he’d “never been more worried in my life” for the state.

It’s unclear who he plans to meet in the US capital, if the trip is confirmed.

Opposition Leader @yairlapid will be flying to Washington next week.

A source in his office tells me that the focus of the visit is "strengthening the Israel-US strategic relationship, bringing the hostages back home and Israel's role in the region."

— Lazar Berman (@Lazar_Berman) April 2, 2024

The news comes amid the absence of any news confirming if or when the Israeli high-level government delegation that had intended to come for talks in Washington about Rafah, requested by US president Joe Biden but later was called off by Netanayahu, will be back on.

 Yair Lapid in 2022.
File pic: Yair Lapid in 2022. Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA

Summary of the day so far …

Israel’s prime minister has admitted Israeli forces killed seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza in an airstrike yesterday. Saying “This happens in wartime,” Benjamin Netanyahu described it as “a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip.”

Three of the seven people killed were British nationals. The UK summoned the Israeli ambassador in London saying Israel must “put in place an effective deconfliction mechanism immediately and urgently to scale up humanitarian access”. The UK’s foreign secretary David Cameron said the deaths were “completely unacceptable”.

The group had been travelling in two armoured vehicles branded with the World Central Kitchen (WCK) charity’s logo. WCK said those killed were from the UK, Australia, Poland and Palestine, as well as a US-Canada dual citizen. The charity said it was suspending operations in the Palestinian territory.

US president Joe Biden’s administration said it had been in touch with José Andrés, who founded WCK. Secretary of state Antony Blinken said the US had also spoken directly to the Israeli government about the issue. He told the media “We’ve urged a swift, a thorough and impartial investigation to understand exactly what happened.”

France’s foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné on Tuesday said his country “strongly condemned” the Israeli airstrike, which “nothing can justify”.

Israel has said it plans to open a joint situation room with international groups to enable the coordination of humanitarian aid. WCK on Monday said in its statement about the attack that “Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse.”

Cyprus said on Tuesday afternoon that ships that recently arrived in Gaza were turning back with 240 tonnes of undelivered aid. “At least two-thirds of the assistance is on its way back,” Cyprus’s foreign minister spokesperson, Theodoros Gotsis, told the Guardian.

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric has said that the organisation’s secretary-general António Guterres condemns an attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, calling for “utmost restraint”. The attack, which killed at least 11 people, including a senior commander in the al-Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has been widely attributed to Israel. Turkey said the attack was a violation of international law by Israel. Iran’s leaders in Tehran described the targeting of a diplomatic mission late on Monday as unprecedented and promised a harsh response.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant said Israel would “act everywhere, every day to prevent the force buildup of our enemies. We are in a multi-front war, in the offence and defence. We see evidence of this every day, including in recent days”. He said Israel was acting “to make it clear to everyone who acts against us, all over the Middle East, that the price for acting against Israel will be a heavy price.”

Israel’s delegation will return from Cairo having formulated a new proposal for a ceasefire and hostage release deal with Hamas, according to reports.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the destruction of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza amounted to “ripping the heart out” of the health system of the territory.

CNN is reporting that a senior Biden administration official told the news network that the US administration had been in touch with World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés.

It reports “These communications began when the US first learned of the deadly incident around 6pm ET last night and has continued overnight and this morning, the official said.”

Earlier secretary of state Antony Blinken said the US had spoken directly with the Israeli government about the strike which killed seven humanitarian aid workers.

Turkey on Tuesday condemned what it called an Israeli attack on an Iranian diplomatic building in Damascus which killed 11 people, and warned that the incident could lead to a wider conflict in the region.

Reuters reports the foreign ministry said the attack was a violation of international law by Israel. It called for restraint, common sense and respect for laws from all parties.

Israel has not claimed the attack, and rarely comments officially on what are widely suspected to be Israeli strikes in Syria or Lebanon.

UK foreign minister Cameron: Israel must 'make major changes to ensure safety of aid workers'

The UK’s foreign secretary David Cameron has posted to social media to say that has spoken to his Israeli counterpart over the killing of seven humanitarian aid workers by an Israeli airstrike on an aid convoy in Gaza.

The former prime minister said:

I spoke with Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz to underline that the deaths of World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza, including three British nationals, are completely unacceptable. Israel must urgently explain how this happened and make major changes to ensure safety of aid workers on the ground.

UK tells Israeli ambassador: 'put in place effective deconfliction mechanism and urgently scale up humanitarian access'

The UK government has issued a statement after summoning the Israeli ambassador. In it, the minister for development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, said:

Today, I summoned the ambassador of the Israeli embassy in London to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

I set out the government’s unequivocal condemnation of the appalling killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, including three British nationals. I requested a quick and transparent investigation, shared with the international community, and full accountability.

I reiterated the need for Israel to put in place an effective deconfliction mechanism immediately and urgently to scale up humanitarian access. We need to see an immediate humanitarian pause, to get aid in and the hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable ceasefire.

UK opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer: deaths of aid workers 'outrageous and unacceptable'

In the UK, opposition party Labour leader Keir Starmer has called the deaths of aid workers in an Israeli airstrike “outrageous and unacceptable”.

PA Media reports he said:

Reports of the death of British nationals – among others from World Central Kitchen – in an Israeli strike on Gaza are horrifying. Our thoughts are with the families of all of those killed.

We condemn this strike. There must be a full investigation and those responsible must be held to account.

Humanitarian workers put their lives in danger to serve others. Their deaths are outrageous and unacceptable – and it is not the first time aid workers have come under fire in Israel’s campaign. law must be upheld and humanitarian workers must be protected so that they can deliver the aid that is so desperately needed.

This war must stop now. Far too many innocent people have died in this conflict and more than a million are facing starvation. Labour repeats our call for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and full humanitarian access into Gaza.

UK summons Israeli ambassador over killing of British aid workers in Gaza airstrike

Reuters has a quick snap that the UK is to summon the Israeli ambassador over the deaths of three British nationals killed in an Israeli airstrike on an aid convoy in Gaza that yesterday killed seven people in total.

More details soon …

Project Hope, which operates clinics in Rafah and Deir al Bala, has issued a statement about the killing of seven humanitarian aid workers in an Israeli airstrike yesterday. The organisation says it has suspended its humanitarian work for three days pending a security review.

Executive vice-president, Chris Skopec, said:

We are horrified and heartbroken by the tragic killing of seven innocent humanitarians in Gaza who were bombed while traveling in marked vehicles after facilitating lifesaving food delivery operations in Deir al Balah. Aid workers are protected under international humanitarian law and should never be targeted. Nearly 200 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October including our late colleague, Mohammed Hamed Mansour Madi, making Gaza one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a humanitarian worker. This is unacceptable and demands accountability through the international criminal court.

Millions of people in Gaza are on the brink of famine. To prevent more senseless deaths, aid workers and aid shipments must be protected. We have paused all programming in Deir al Balah and Rafah for the next three days in solidarity with World Central Kitchen and to reassess the security situation as we prioritize our staff members’ safety. In order to allow humanitarian organizations to safely provide lifesaving care, we reiterate our call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire.

Here is the video clip of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying “this happens in wartime” after Israel’s military admitted it had killed seven aid workers, including three British citizens, in an airstrike on an aid convoy in Gaza.

'This happens in wartime': Netanyahu responds to Israeli strike killing aid workers in Gaza – video

UN chief condemns suspected Israeli attack on Iranian consulate

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric has said that the organisation’s secretary-general condemns an attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, calling for “utmost restraint”. The attack, which killed at least 11 people, including a senior commander in the al-Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has been widely attributed to Israel.

In the statement, Dujarric said António Guterres “cautions that any miscalculation could lead to broader conflict in an already volatile region, with devastating consequences for civilians who are already seeing unprecedented suffering in Syria, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian Territory, and the broader Middle East.”

Reuters reports that in the statement Guterres called on “all concerned to exercise utmost restraint and avoid further escalation”.

Israel rarely expressly claims strikes carried out inside Lebanon or Syria, both of which it is believed to have targeted on multiple occasions since the 7 October Hamas attack inside southern Israel.

Earlier today Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant said Israel would “act everywhere, every day to prevent the force buildup of our enemies. We are in a multi-front war, in the offence and defence. We see evidence of this every day, including in recent days.”

He said Israel was acting “to make it clear to everyone who acts against us, all over the Middle East, that the price for acting against Israel will be a heavy price.”

Iran’s leaders in Tehran described the targeting of a diplomatic mission late on Monday as unprecedented and promised a harsh response.

Israel has said it plans to open a joint situation room with international groups to enable the coordination of humanitarian aid after admitting that its military killed seven aid workers in an airstrike yesterday.

World Central Kitchen yesterday said in its statement about the attack that “Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse.”

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier described the deaths as “a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people.”

More details soon …

Blinken: US government has 'spoken directly to the Israeli government' about airstrike that killed seven aid workers

During a visit to France, the US secretary of state Antony Blinken has said the US has spoken directly to the Israeli government about the Israeli airstrike that yesterday killed seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza.

“We’ve spoken directly to the Israeli government about this particular incident. We’ve urged a swift, a thorough and impartial investigation to understand exactly what happened,” Reuters report Blinken told the media at a news conference in Paris, adding that humanitarian workers have to be protected.

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