Israel & Palestine

‘You killed them’: Fallout grows from Israel’s fatal strike on aid workers in Gaza

Author: Editors Desk, Samuel Clench Source: News Corp Australia Network:
April 3, 2024 at 10:00

A high profile TV host has abruptly cut off an interview with a spokesman for the Israeli government after the nation’s military made a catastrophic “mistake”.

The missile strikes, which targeted vehicles on a United Nations-designated “accessible road for humanitarian aid”, killed a group of workers from the World Central Kitchen, a non-profit food charity. One of the seven victims was a local Palestinian, while the rest came from around the world, including one person from Australia, Zomi Frankcom.

“Her life was dedicated to the service of others,” Foreign Minister Penny Wong said of Ms Frankcom on Wednesday morning.

“What we would say, as the Australian government, about these events, is they are outrageous and they are unacceptable.

I spoke to the Foreign Minister of Israel overnight and made clear we condemn the strike, and expressed to him the outrage of the nation.



Ms Wong said Australia expected a full investigation and “full accountability”. She also reiterated the government’s call for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.

We continue to expect Israel to comply with international humanitarian law,” she said.

“I would say to Mr Netanyahu that wartime does not obviate responsibility for observing international humanitarian law, including the protection of aid workers.”

In a statement, World Central Kitchen said it was “devastated”, and stressed that its workers had been travelling in a “deconflicted zone” when they were targeted.“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations, where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable,” said the organisation’s CEO, Erin Gore.

I am heartbroken and appalled that we lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF. The love they had for feeding people, the determination they embodied to show that humanity rises above all, and the impact they made will forever be remembered.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the incident as “tragic”.

Unfortunately, in the past day, there was a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip,” Mr Netanyahu said.

This happens in war. We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence.”


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: Leo Correa/AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: Leo Correa/AFP

Unconscionable’: World responds furiously

Herzi Halevi, the IDF’s Chief of Staff, has also publicly addressed the attack.

“This incident was a grave mistake,” he said.

“I want to be very clear. The strike was not carried out with the intention of harming World Central Kitchen aid workers.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification, at night, during a war, in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened.

We will continue taking immediate actions to ensure that more is done to protect humanitarian aid workers.”

The expression of regret has done little to mollify world leaders, however.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres called the Israeli strike “unconscionable”, and said it was an “inevitable result” of the way the war in Gaza – sparked by Hamas’s attack on civilians in southern Israel on October 7 of last year – was being conducted.

He noted that almost 200 aid workers had been killed in the conflict so far.

In a statement that was unusually harsh in its condemnation of Israel, US President Joe Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken”. One American aid worker was among the dead.

They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war. They were brave and selfless. Their deaths are a tragedy,” Mr Biden said.

“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.

“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.

Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen. Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians.


US President Joe Biden. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP
US President Joe Biden. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP

The British government expressed similar sentiments, with Foreign Secretary David Cameron calling Israel’s strike “completely unacceptable”.

In a phone call with Mr Netanyahu, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said too many aid workers and civilians had been killed in Gaza and said the situation was “increasingly intolerable”.

Mr Sunak said the righteous aim of defeating Hamas would not be helped by allowing a “humanitarian catastrophe” to take place in the Gaza Strip.

Poland’s Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, issued a statement saying his nation’s support for Israel was being put under strain. One Polish national was among the victims.

The vast majority of Poles showed full solidarity with Israel after the Hamas attack,” Mr Tusk said.

Today you are putting this solidarity to a really hard test. The tragic attack on volunteers and your reaction arouse understandable anger.”


‘I’m asking a simple question’

David Mencer, a spokesman for the Israeli government, has made multiple appearances in the international media since the tragic strike.

On Britain’s Channel 4, he was challenged bluntly by anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

Is the Israeli government apologising to the families of the aid workers killed, including the three families in Britain,” Mr Guru-Murthy asked.

“From the Prime Minister to the Defence Minister to the spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces, all of us have expressed grief about this occurrence,” Mr Mercer said.

Yes, but are you apologising?” the anchor interjected.

To be frank, if you let me answer, Krishnan – there’s no point attacking me already, I’ve just arrived, for heaven’s sake,” said Mr Mercer.

I’m not attacking you. I’m just asking a simple question, I want an answer to it. Are you apologising?” Mr Guru-Murthy shot back.

Let me answer. We have expressed grief about this operation, but we need to find out exactly what has happened,” the spokesman responded.


Mr Guru-Murthy argued that Israel had already acknowledged its “mistake”, and so there was no need to await “the precise details” before issuing an apology to the grieving families.

There are grieving families, and we grieve with them,” said Mr Mercer.

Well, you killed them,” said the host.

Clearly something catastrophic has happened. It’s not something that we wanted, and we’re going to get to the bottom of this,” Mr Mercer said.

The interview continued for another four minutes, but eventually ended in acrimony, with Mr Guru-Murthy cutting it short.

I’m sorry David, I’ve got to cut you off there. I’m just trying to get answers to questions, and if you can’t answer the question, I can’t allow you to do the propaganda bit afterwards,” he said.

You’re such a sweetheart,” Mr Mercer quipped before his microphone was silenced.

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