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World leaders decry Israel airstrike on Gaza that killed aid workers

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Leaders worldwide condemned the deaths of seven aid workers in an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip, while vessels bringing much-needed aid to the Palestinian territory have turned back.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was responsible for the deadly attack in a statement on Tuesday.

He called it a “tragic case of an unintentional strike” by Israeli forces on “innocent people,” in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

British, Australian, Polish, a US-Canadian dual citizen, and Palestinian nationals were killed when their convoy was attacked on Monday night.

Israel is in contact with the governments of the victims and will do everything so that such an incident does not happen again, Netanyahu said.

The World Central Kitchen (WCK) employees were travelling in a deconflicted zone in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo, the US-based aid organization set up by US-Spanish restaurateur José Andrés said in a statement.

Despite coordinating movements with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the convoy was hit as it was leaving a warehouse in Deir al-Balah, WCK said.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable,” WCK chief executive Erin Gore said.

WCK had immediately paused its operations in the region and a decision about its future would be made soon, Gore said.

Despite the growing desperation in Gaza with famine looming, the delivery of food and supplies by ship was temporarily halted after the strike, which came after aid workers had unloaded more than 100 tons of food brought to Gaza by sea.

Three vessels – the freighter Jennifer and the two smaller tugboats Open Arms and Ledra Dynamic – are now heading back to the Cypriot port of Larnaca, the spokesman for the Cypriot Foreign Ministry, Theodoros Gotsis, confirmed to dpa on Tuesday.

Gotsis said Jennifer alone had 250 tons of relief supplies on board, but was forced to return to Cyprus “without having achieved anything.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke to Andrés on the phone and expressed his “deep sorrow” over the “tragic loss of life of WCK staff,” the president’s office wrote on X. Herzog offered his “sincere apologies.”

Leaders around the world demanded Israel investigate the incident.

“We were outraged to learn of an IDF strike that killed a number of civilian humanitarian workers yesterday from the World Central Kitchen,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said.

He said the White House expects Israel to quickly carry out an in-depth investigation.

“We hope that those findings will be made public and that there is appropriate accountability.”

His demand that Israel investigate echoed similar calls by Germany, Spain, Poland, Britain, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron called the deaths “completely unacceptable,” while British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “shocked and saddened.”

“All this talk about ceasefires, and still this war steals the best of us,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a post on X.

The presidents of the European Commission and the European Council also condemned the killings. “I pay homage to the [WCK] aid workers who lost their lives in Gaza,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on X.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said on X: “It’s long time overdue to stop the slaughter of innocent civilians and humanitarian workers. There should be an investigation and the perpetrators held accountable.”

The IDF will conduct a thorough investigation “at the highest levels” into the deaths, spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari has pledged.

“We are a professional military committed to international law. We are committed to examining our operations thoroughly and transparently,” Hagari said in a video message in English.

He paid tribute to WCK, noting that it had been one of the first organizations to assist Israel following the October 7 attacks mounted from Gaza. “The work of WCK is critical,” he said. “They fulfil a vital mission of bringing food to people in need.”

The war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre of more than 1,200 people killed by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement and other extremist groups.

Criticism is growing of Israel’s overwhelming response given the soaring number of civilian casualties and catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Bodies of the deceased officials of the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), can be seen on the ground following an Israeli attack on a WCK vehicle in Deir Al-Balah. Omar Ashtawy/APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Bodies of the deceased officials of the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), can be seen on the ground following an Israeli attack on a WCK vehicle in Deir Al-Balah. Omar Ashtawy/APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Bodies of the deceased officials of the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), can be seen on the ground following an Israeli attack on a WCK vehicle in Deir Al-Balah. Omar Ashtawy/APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Bodies of the deceased officials of the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), can be seen on the ground following an Israeli attack on a WCK vehicle in Deir Al-Balah. Omar Ashtawy/APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

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