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José Andrés Says Israel Targeted World Central Kitchen Workers ‘Systematically’

World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday that the seven World Central Kitchen workers who were killed by an Israeli strike while delivering aid Gaza earlier this week were targeted “systematically, car by car.”

“This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,” Andrés said. “Even if we were not in coordination with the [Israel Defense Forces], no democratic country and no military can be targeting civilians and humanitarians.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu has acknowledged the workers were killed by an Israeli airstrike, which he called “unintentional.” John Kirby of the U.S. National Security Council said on Tuesday that the U.S. had not seen any evidence the attack was intentional. Kirby said the U.S. was “outraged” by the attack, but scoffed when a reporter questioned the U.S. continuing to offer unconditional military aid to Israel.

“The U.S. must do more to tell Prime Minister Netanyahu this war needs to end now,” Andrés told Reuters a day later.

Andrés published an op-ed in The New York Times earlier on Wednesday, remembering the victims as more than “generic aid workers or collateral damage in war.”

“In the worst conditions you can imagine — after hurricanes, earthquakes, bombs and gunfire — the best of humanity shows up. Not once or twice but always,” Andrés wrote in the piece published Wednesday morning. “The seven people killed on a World Central Kitchen mission in Gaza on Monday were the best of humanity. They are not faceless or nameless.”

Among the seven killed were three WCK relief team members including Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, a 25-year-old from Palestine; Damian Soból, a 35-year-old from Poland; and Jacob Flickinger, a 33-year-old from the U.S. and Canada. Three members of the WCK security team, all from the U.K., were killed, too. Among them were John Chapman, 57; James Henderson, 33; and James Kirby, 47. Zomi Frankcom, the 43-year-old WCK relief lead from Australian, was also killed.

The workers were traveling through a de-conflicted zone in two armored cars, both clearly branded with the World Central Kitchen logo, when the attack occurred as the team was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse. They had just unloaded 100 tons of food aid, according to a statement issued from World Central Kitchen on Tuesday morning.

For Andrés — who worked alongside these team members in Ukraine, Turkey, Morocco, the Bahamas, Indonesia, Mexico, Gaza and Israel — they were “more than heroes.” He wrote: “Their work was based on the simple belief that food is a universal human right. It is not conditional on being good or bad, rich or poor, left or right. We do not ask what religion you belong to. We just ask how many meals you need.”

The chef added that their aid has provided nearly 2 million hot meals to people across Israel alone while they “communicated extensively” with Israeli officials and military forces. “At the same time,” he continued, “we have worked closely with community leaders in Gaza, as well as Arab nations in the region. There is no way to bring a ship full of food to Gaza without doing so.”

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said of the Israeli killings of our team, ‘It happens in war.’ It was a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by the Israel Defense Forces,” Andrés explained, adding that the mission itself was so crucial because of the very policies preventing aid from easily entering Gaza. The team was in the process of delivering food that arrived in a nearly 400 ton shipment that arrived by sea, the second of its kind.

“The team members put their lives at risk precisely because this food aid is so rare and desperately needed,” he added. “According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification global initiative, half the population of Gaza — 1.1. million people — faces the imminent risk of famine. The team would not have made the journey if there were enough food, traveling by truck across land, to feed the people of Gaza.”

Netanyahu said the strike will be investigated, stating: “We will do everything possible to prevent this from happening again.” In response, André wrote: “We welcome the government’s promise of an investigation into how and why members of our World Central Kitchen family were killed. That investigation needs to start at the top, not just the bottom.”

“Israel is better than the way this war is being waged. It is better than blocking food and medicine to civilians. It is better than killing aid workers who had coordinated their movements with the Israel Defense Forces,” he wrote. “The Israeli government needs to open more land routes for food and medicine today. It needs to stop killing civilians and aid workers today. It needs to start the long journey to peace today.”

Andrés continued: “In the worst conditions, after the worst terrorist attack in its history, it’s time for the best of Israel to show up. You cannot save the hostages by bombing every building in Gaza. You cannot win this war by starving an entire population.”

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