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7 World Central Kitchen aid workers were killed in Gaza. What it means for the ongoing conflict and what's next

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said an Israeli airstrike was to blame.

Seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike while distributing desperately needed aid in the Gaza Strip on Monday, according to a statement by the U.S.-based non-governmental aid group founded by celebrity chef José Andrés.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that the Israeli military was responsible for the unintended “tragic” strike and vowed to investigate.

Israel's military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, announced the results of a preliminary investigation early Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification – at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said, adding that a “thorough investigation” would be completed in the "coming days" by an independent body.

🚨 What just happened?

Three ships carrying more than 400 tons of food aid had arrived in Gaza on Monday. WCK aid workers had off-loaded around 100 tons of the aid into a warehouse. As the convoy was leaving the warehouse in Deir al-Balah, a WCK vehicle was hit in an Israeli airstrike.

The WCK said the convoy included armored cars clearly marked with the WCK logo and was in a de-conflicted zone. The organization said it also coordinated its route with the Israel Defense Forces.

The seven aid workers killed were three British nationals, citizens from Australia and Poland, one Palestinian worker and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, according to WCK.

Palestinians standing next to a vehicle in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip in which employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike, according to the NGO. The Israeli military is stating that it is conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this ''tragic'' incident, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A vehicle in the central Gaza Strip in which employees from the World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike, April 2. (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

📖 The background

World Central Kitchen has played an essential humanitarian role in Gaza because it’s one of the largest providers of food aid to the war-torn region through a sea corridor from Cyprus that was approved by Israel.

The 2.4 million people in Gaza are facing dire levels of hunger, according to a United Nations-backed report published last month. It projected imminent famine for the people in northern Gaza, while half of all people in the enclave were experiencing “catastrophic” hunger.

▶️ Why it's important

Aid organizations and member governments of the United Nations, including the United States, have claimed Israel has placed extensive restrictions on aid entering Gaza by land, while Israel has long denied those accusations. The U.S. has put mounting pressure on Israel to facilitate the flow of aid by trucks, which is much more efficient than delivering aid by air drops or by sea, like the delivery of aid through WCK.

According to a report issued Monday by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, about 30% of humanitarian aid missions to northern Gaza were denied by Israeli authorities. “Access impediments continue to severely compromise the ability of humanitarian actors to reach people in the Gaza Strip,” the report said.

Israel also faces mounting criticism for its continued aggression in the war, as the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 32,800, while at least 27 people have died of malnutrition, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Nearly 200 aid workers have also been killed in Gaza since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, according to the Aid Worker Security Database.

The Israeli military has said about 250 soldiers have been killed since the Israel-Hamas war began.

Last week the U.N. Security Council passed a ceasefire resolution; the United States abstained from voting, notably allowing it to pass without issuing a veto. It calls for the immediate release of Hamas-held hostages and for ensuring humanitarian access to Gaza.

🗣️ What's the reaction?

Andrés said in a post on X that he was “heartbroken” following the tragedy.

World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore said in a statement, “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.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu confirmed in a video statement that Israel was responsible for the killing of the seven WCK aid workers. “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,” he added.

The White House said that it was "outraged" when it learned of the IDF airstrike. "Beyond the strike, what is clear is that the IDF must do much more to improve deconfliction processes so that civilians and humanitarian aid workers are protected," national security spokesman John Kirby said during a Tuesday press briefing.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also expressed his condolences during a press conference in Paris on Tuesday. “They have been doing extraordinary, brave work day in, day out,” Blinken said of the WCK aid workers. “The victims of yesterday’s strike join a record number of humanitarian workers who have been killed in this particular conflict. These people are heroes. They run into the fire, not away from it. They show the best of what humanity has to offer.”

What happens next?

Kirby said that a preliminary investigation on the Israeli side was completed Tuesday and the U.S. will look to see what they uncovered so far, but the U.S. expects a broader investigation to be completed as well.

Blinken also reiterated Tuesday the need for Israel to do more to protect the lives of innocent Palestinians and aid workers, and to allow for more aid to get in more effectively.

Meanwhile, WCK has halted food aid work in Gaza and the United Arab Emirates, which had funded the WCK-organized aid shipments by sea, told Reuters it’s pausing humanitarian aid through the maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza pending an investigation and further safety guarantees from Israel.

Ships carrying roughly 240 tons of vital humanitarian food aid have now turned back from Gaza, according to Cyprus officials.