Middle East crisis live: three British aid workers among those killed in Israeli airstrike in Gaza, charity confirms

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Three British aid workers confirmed killed yesterday in Israeli airstrike in Gaza

The charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) has confirmed that three of the seven humanitarian aid workers killed in Gaza yesterday by an Israeli airstrike were UK citizens.

The group had been travelling in two armoured vehicles branded with the 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.

Other aid agencies have also suspended operations, and aid being sent through a maritime corridor from Cyprus is being returned. Aid organisations have warned of imminent famine in the territory.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier described the deaths as “a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” adding that “This happens in wartime.”

A Palestinian man rides a bicycle past a damaged vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed in an Israeli airstrike.
A Palestinian man rides a bicycle past a damaged vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed in an Israeli airstrike. Photograph: Ahmed Zakot/Reuters

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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.

France's foreign minister: 'nothing can justify' the 'tragedy' of Israeli airstrike on aid workers

France’s foreign minister Stéphane Séjourné on Tuesday said his country “strongly condemned” the Israeli airstrike which killed seven people working for the World Central Kitchen charity in Gaza.

“The protection of humanitarian personnel is a moral and legal imperative that everyone must adhere to,” Reuters reports Séjourné said. “Nothing can justify such a tragedy,” he added.

Three British aid workers confirmed killed yesterday in Israeli airstrike in Gaza

The charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) has confirmed that three of the seven humanitarian aid workers killed in Gaza yesterday by an Israeli airstrike were UK citizens.

The group had been travelling in two armoured vehicles branded with the 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.

Other aid agencies have also suspended operations, and aid being sent through a maritime corridor from Cyprus is being returned. Aid organisations have warned of imminent famine in the territory.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier described the deaths as “a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” adding that “This happens in wartime.”

A Palestinian man rides a bicycle past a damaged vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed in an Israeli airstrike.
A Palestinian man rides a bicycle past a damaged vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed in an Israeli airstrike. Photograph: Ahmed Zakot/Reuters

Summary of the day so far...

Seven people working with World Central Kitchen (WCK), a charity spearheading efforts to alleviate looming famine in Gaza, have been killed in an Israeli airstrike, the charity said. The workers were travelling in two armoured vehicles branded with the charity’s logo, according to a statement released early on Tuesday. WCK said those killed were from the UK, Australia, Poland and Palestine, as well as a US-Canada dual citizen. The bodies of the aid workers were taken to a hospital in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, on the Egyptian border, according to an Associated Press reporter at the facility.

Israel’s military acknowledged that one of its airstrikes in Gaza on Monday killed the aid workers, and that its top general would review the findings of a preliminary inquiry, Reuters reported. “The tragic incident last night occurred as a result of an IDF strike and we are investigating the circumstances,” a military statement said. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier described the deaths as “a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip”.

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. “Around 332 tonnes of aid left Cyprus on Saturday. Around 100 tonnes, about a third, were unloaded and delivered but after these tragic events the other two-thirds are being brought back.”

Senior western officials and ministers, including the Australian foreign minister and British foreign secretary, condemned the airstrike and called for a swift and transparent investigation into it. The EU, meanwhile, repeated the need for Israel to operate within international law amid continuing fears for the safety of aid workers bringing vital food supplies to starving Palestinians in Gaza.

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. “Destroying al-Shifa means ripping the heart out of the health system,” WHO spokesperson, Margaret Harris, said. “It was the place people go to for the kind of care that a really good health system provides, that we in all our societies expect to have should we be in need.” Israeli forces left al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Monday after a two-week operation by special forces that left most of the major medical complex in ruins.

Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, has vowed revenge after Israeli war planes destroyed the Iranian consulate in Damascus, killing at least 11 people, including a senior commander in the al-Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. “After repeated defeats and failures against the faith and will of the Resistance Front fighters, the Zionist regime has put blind assassinations on its agenda in the struggle to save itself,” Raisi said on his office’s website. “Day by day, we have witnessed the strengthening of the Resistance Front and the disgust and hatred of free nations towards the illegitimate nature of (Israel). This cowardly crime will not go unanswered.”

American Near East Refugee Aid (Anera) has issued a press release explaining the “unprecedented step” it took in pausing its humanitarian operations in Gaza.

The charity, which helps provide emergency relief for Palestinians, said delivering aid safely in the enclave is no “longer feasible”, with Palestinian staff in Gaza now deeming the risk to themselves and their families as “intolerable”.

Here is Anera’s statement:

Following the targeted Israeli attack on a humanitarian aid convoy yesterday, resulting in the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers, Anera is taking the unprecedented step of pausing its humanitarian operations in Gaza.

The killing of WCK humanitarians, occurring less than a month after the still-unexplained killing of Anera staff member Mousa Shawwa, alongside the loss of numerous other aid workers and their families, has led our team to conclude that delivering aid safely is no longer feasible. For the safety of our staff and their families, we are suspending Anera’s work in Gaza.

Since the onset of the war on 7 October, Anera’s Gaza team has provided an average of 150,000 meals daily (in collaboration with WCK), millions of medical treatments, and thousands of other critical emergency aid items. While we understand the severe consequences this suspension will have on the Palestinian population, the escalating risks associated with aid delivery leave us with no choice but to halt operations until our staff regain confidence that they can do their work without undue risk.

In nearly six months of conflict, this marks the first instance where our Palestinian staff in Gaza, enduring continuously hazardous conditions, have deemed the risk to their safety, and that of their families, intolerable. Anera’s longstanding presence in the occupied Palestinian territories, spanning over 55 years and enduring through multiple conflicts, underscores the gravity of this decision. The unprecedented scale of the current conflict and the disregard for international law necessitate this historic pause in our operations.

The attack on the seven WCK aid workers constitutes a clear violation of the international court of justice’s provisions, emphasizing that humanitarian workers and civilians must never be targeted. The ongoing targeting of humanitarian workers and the lack of adequate safety measures demand thorough investigation and immediate action. Israel bears the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the unhindered delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance and basic services to those in need.

In accordance with international law and principles of humanity, parties with effective control over a population are obligated to provide protection, ensuring the provision of essential supplies for civilian survival. Even if specific obligations under occupation laws do not apply, all parties must uphold the minimum duties outlined in international humanitarian law. Israel, as the occupying authority in Gaza, holds ultimate responsibility for obstructing the delivery of essential supplies and failing to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers.

We reiterate our demand for adequate security for humanitarian and health workers, journalists, and all civilians, and call for an immediate and enduring ceasefire.

Aid delivered to Gaza via maritime corridor being returned to Cyprus after deadly Israeli airstrike

Helena Smith

Helena Smith

In the aftermath of the shocking news of the aid workers’ deaths, much of the humanitarian consignment that had reached Gaza via the maritime corridor from Cyprus is now being returned to the island, we have learned.

“At least two-thirds of the assistance is on its way back,” Cyprus’s foreign minister spokesperson, Theodoros Gotsis, told the Guardian.

“Around 332 tonnes of aid left Cyprus on Saturday. Around 100 tonnes, about a third, were unloaded and delivered but after these tragic events the other two-thirds are being brought back.”

The aid, which had included basic non-perishable food supplies such as flour and pasta, had reached the besieged coastal strip on a flotilla of ships that had departed the Cypriot port of Larnaca two days earlier.

Of the four vessels that had plied the route, two were carrying vital food provisions and two equipment and personnel. The humanitarian assistance had been loaded on a transport ship, the Jennifer, and a barge towed by the Spanish-flagged Open Arms.

By the time Monday’s airstrike occurred, in which seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen died, only supplies from the barge had been offloaded at a makeshift jetty off the Gaza coast.

Gotsis said with the charity putting its humanitarian relief operation on pause, the cargo would probably remain in Cyprus until the completion of investigations into the tragedy. “Obviously we will have to wait now until the whole process of inquiry is carried out,” he said. “We have to wait and see if WCK resumes operations.”

The organisation is now the only charity involved in overseeing the distribution of aid from the Mediterranean island.

With famine reportedly spreading at an alarming pace among Gaza’s 2.3 million strong Palestinian populace, the news of much-needed food being sent back from the territory has only exacerbated the unfolding tragedy in the enclave.

Warsaw demands 'explanations' from Israel as Polish aid worker killed in Israeli airstrike is named

Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said he has demanded “urgent explanations” from Israel’s ambassador in Warsaw after an Israeli strike killed a Polish volunteer and six other aid workers in Gaza.

The president of the city of Przemysl, in southeastern Poland, earlier identified the volunteer as Damian Sobol.

World Central Kitchen aid worker Damian Sobol.
World Central Kitchen aid worker Damian Sobol. Photograph: World Central Kitchen/Reuters

“I personally asked the Israeli ambassador Yacov Livne for urgent explanations,” Sikorski said on social media, adding that he had offered “condolences to the family of our brave volunteer”.

He also announced Poland had opened its own inquiry into the aid worker’s death.

Składam najszczersze kondolencje rodzinie naszego rodaka, Pana Damiana.
Za atak odpowiedzialność przyjęła armia izraelska. Rozmawiałem już z ambasadorem 🇮🇱, za chwilę będę rozmawiał telefonicznie z MSZ 🇮🇱 Israelem Katzem. pic.twitter.com/D6DM0BYb9A

— Radosław Sikorski 🇵🇱🇪🇺 (@sikorskiradek) April 2, 2024

“Our brave compatriot, Damian Sobol from the city of Przemysl, helped those in need in Gaza, where a humanitarian crisis is taking place,” Sikorski said in a video published on X.

“He was killed in an attack for which the Israeli army claimed responsibility,” Poland’s top diplomat added, saying he would hold a phone call with his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz.

World Central Kitchen said its team was travelling in a “de-conflicted” area in a convoy of “two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle” at the time of the strike yesterday evening.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, lamented the killings, which he said had been caused by an Israeli airstrike. He described the incident as tragic and unintended.

Israeli strike killed Gaza aid workers, military says

Israel’s military said one of its airstrikes in Gaza killed seven people working for the World Central Kitchen aid group, and that its top general would review the findings of a preliminary inquiry, Reuters reports.

“The tragic incident last night occurred as a result of an IDF strike and we are investigating the circumstances,” a military statement said.

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

UK-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians has condemned the “horrific attack” on the seven aid workers killed by an Israeli airstrike on Monday, and said the deaths demonstrate there is “no safe place in Gaza, whether you are Palestinian, British or any other nationality”.

It added:

Gaza is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an aid worker right now.

Every day our team in Gaza have to risk their lives to provide vital aid to those in need.

The charity has joined calls for a “swift and independent investigation”, adding “those responsible must be held accountable”.

In January, it reported a near fatal airstrike by the Israeli military on a residential compound housing some of its staff.

Here are some of the latest images coming out from the newswires:

Palestinian people gather among rubble of buildings in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Palestinian people gather among rubble of buildings in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photograph: APAImages/REX/Shutterstock
This picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing behind destroyed buildings due to Israeli strikes on the enclave.
This picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing behind destroyed buildings due to Israeli strikes on the enclave. Photograph: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images
A girl reacts at the site of an Israeli airstrike on a building in Rafah.
A girl reacts at the site of an Israeli airstrike on a building in Rafah. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Juliette Touma, communications director for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugee, has expressed concerns about the disruption of getting aid into northern Gaza amid warnings of a looming famine.

“Children are dying of hunger,” she told BBC News. “Any organisation which delivers assistance to people in Gaza is key.

“Any disruption will have severe consequences on a population which is already going through quite a lot.”

“We need to coordinate with the Israel authorities. On three different occasions we have had our convoys hit by Israeli forces.”

The UN has said at least 576,000 people in the coastal territory – a quarter of the population – are on the brink of famine, and pressure has been growing on Israel to increase the flow of aid.

Two charities, World Central Kitchen and American Near East Refugee Aid, have suspended their operations in Gaza after the Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers on Monday evening.

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