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Israel blamed as Gaza strike kills 7 staff of US food charity

Israel says won't send delegation to US that Biden requested
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A US-based charity blamed Israel on Tuesday for a strike that killed seven of its staff unloading food brought to the war-torn Gaza Strip by sea to help alleviate looming famine.

The group World Central Kitchen said it was pausing operations after the “targeted Israeli strike” killed Australian, British, Palestinian, Polish and US-Canadian employees on Monday.

The Israeli military vowed to hold an investigation and to share its findings “transparently”, with spokesman Daniel Hagari expressing “deepest condolences” and praising the group’s “noble mission”.

AFP video footage showed the impact hole of a strike in the roof of one charred vehicle, perforating the group’s logo.

The White House was “heartbroken”, US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said on X, stressing that relief workers “must be protected as they deliver aid that is desperately needed”.

The aid workers’ deaths came as fighting raged in the Gaza war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack in which fierce battles have left the largest hospital, Al-Shifa, in ruins with hundreds reported killed.

Middle East tensions have surged after Israel was also blamed for a deadly air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on Monday that killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals.

Tehran — which backs Hamas and other groups fighting Israel and its allies across the region — has vowed revenge against its long-time foe.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to push on with the war to destroy Hamas, despite rising concern voiced by top ally Washington, and nightly mass street protests at home demanding he step down.

The United States said Monday that it had expressed concerns to Israel about its planned offensive in Gaza’s crowded southern city of Rafah, and that Israel had pledged to “take these concerns into account”.

The right-wing Israeli premier also vowed on Monday to ban broadcasts from Israel by the Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera, which he labelled a “terrorist channel”.

The broadcaster, several of whose journalists have been killed and wounded in the war, called his comments a “dangerous, ludicrous lie”.

– ‘Beyond catastrophic’ –

The bloodiest-ever Gaza war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 attack, which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,916 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

Palestinian militants also seized around 250 hostages. Israel believes about 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 presumed dead.

On Monday, the army wrapped up a two-week operation at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital that left much of the complex in ruins with bodies scattered over the dusty ground.

Israel said its troops had killed 200 enemy fighters, while a spokesman for Gaza’s civil defence agency said 300 people had been killed in and around the hospital.

Rear Admiral Hagari said there were “more terrorists in the hospital than patients or medical staff,” with 900 suspects detained of whom over 500 were “definitely” militants.

During the war, Gaza has been under a tight blockade, with the United Nations accusing Israel of preventing humanitarian aid deliveries and warning of “catastrophic” hunger.

– ‘Heartbroken’ by deaths –

US-based WCK has been working to unload food brought to Gaza by sea from EU member-state Cyprus.

The bodies of its slain staff were taken to a hospital mortuary in the central town of Deir al-Balah, an AFP photographer reported.

One of them was laid on a makeshift stretcher, wearing a top emblazoned with the WCK name and logo.

The group’s CEO Erin Gore said “I am heartbroken and appalled that we — World Central Kitchen and the world — lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the (Israeli army).”

The aid group said the 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.

“Despite coordinating movements with the (Israeli army), the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route,” it said.

The Israeli military said it was “conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident”, adding it had been “working closely with WCK”.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose country’s charity Open Arms has been working closely with WCK on the aid deliveries from Cyprus, demanded Israel explain the “brutal” strike.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned the “completely unacceptable” attack.

– Strike on Iran mission –

The Gaza war has heightened fears of a wider regional conflagration, as Israel has exchanged fire with Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and violence has flared in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Those fears intensified with the strikes in Damascus in which 11 people were killed according to Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said seven of its members were killed, including two commanders of its Qud Force foreign operations arm, Brigadiers General Mohammad Reza Zahedi and Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi.

Israel did not comment, but Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian blamed it as well as its ally the United States, saying that “the Americans must take responsibility”.

The UN Security Council was to discuss the strike later Tuesday at a meeting requested by Damascus ally Moscow.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed that Israel “will be punished at the hands of our brave men. We will make them regret this crime and the other ones.”


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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