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José Andrés Says Israel Deliberately Killed 7 Of His Aid Workers In Gaza Airstrikes

Chef and humanitarian José Andrés has accused Israel of deliberately launching the airstrikes that killed seven aid workers with his World Central Kitchen charity in Gaza, calling the incident a “direct attack” on humanitarian workers trying to provide food and supplies to desperate Palestinians.

In a New York Times opinion article published early Wednesday, the world-renowned chef paid tribute to the workers who were killed in Monday’s attack, saying they were the “best of humanity.” One of the victims was Palestinian. The others came from Australia, Poland, Britain, Canada and the United States.

“Their work was based on the simple belief that food is a universal human right,” he wrote. “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.”

World Central Kitchen, Andrés’ aid group that helps provide food in conflict and disaster zones, began delivering food aid in northern Gaza last month via a maritime corridor from Cyprus. Since then, the chef said, the charity has served more than 43 million meals in Gaza, preparing hot meals in 68 community kitchens where “Palestinians are feeding Palestinians.”

Israel faced widespread anger after troops launched multiple airstrikes on a convoy of three vehicles that had just dropped off 100 tons of food in Deir al-Balah in an effort to fight Gaza’s starvation crisis.

The vehicles had a clearly visible WCK logo on their roofs so that the military would be aware the cars were full of aid workers. WCK said it was also in constant communication with Israeli military and civilian officials so that they were aware of the vehicles’ movements.

“It was a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by the Israel Defense Forces,” Andrés wrote. “It was also the direct result of a policy that squeezed humanitarian aid to desperate levels.”

Medics prepare the bodies of the seven World Central Kitchen workers Wednesday in Rafah, Gaza, for return to their home countries. The seven were killed in Israeli airstrikes Monday.
Medics prepare the bodies of the seven World Central Kitchen workers Wednesday in Rafah, Gaza, for return to their home countries. The seven were killed in Israeli airstrikes Monday. Ahmad Hasaballah via Getty Images

In an interview with Reuters that was released Wednesday, Andrés said that initially his group lost contact with its team in Gaza and that he realized what had happened only when he saw images of the aid employees’ corpses.

After Israeli forces struck the first car, the aid team tried to escape to a second car in the convoy. When that car was struck, the workers then fled to a third car, where they were killed in yet another strike.

“They were targeting us in a deconflicting zone, in an area controlled by IDF. They know that it was our teams moving on that road,” Andrés told Reuters, adding that Israel targeted the aid workers “systematically, car by car.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that his government will investigate its military, though such probes are usually not completed in a timely fashion and rarely produce conclusions that bring accountability. Netanyahu, with the assistance of the U.S., has so far maintained that the killing was unintentional and that such an attack “happens in war.”

While Andrés said he welcomes the guarantee of an investigation, he would not accept Israel’s assertion that the attack was not deliberate.

“This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,” Andrés told Reuters. “This was over a 1.5, 1.8 kilometers, with a very defined humanitarian convoy that had signs in the top, in the roof, a very colorful logo that we are obviously very proud of.”

The body of a World Central Kitchen worker lies on the ground Monday at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza. An Israeli attack on an aid convoy delivering food killed seven of the charity's workers.
The body of a World Central Kitchen worker lies on the ground Monday at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza. An Israeli attack on an aid convoy delivering food killed seven of the charity's workers. Abdel Kareem Hana via Associated Press

The chef said that Israel must also face investigations by the U.S. and by the home country of every aid worker who was killed in the attack. President Joe Biden spoke with him on Tuesday.

Biden said that he was outraged by the attack and publicly urged Israel to take responsibility for the bombing and open up humanitarian aid corridors. But according to Politico, the White House has no plans to actually change its policy on unconditionally arming Israel in its six-month military offensive.

Andrés also demanded that Israel allow more than the current trickle of aid to enter Gaza, particularly as Palestinians face a worsening hunger and medical crisis. According to a private cable exclusively obtained Tuesday by HuffPost, officials with the U.S. Agency for International Development warned that Gaza was already experiencing famine at a level that is “unprecedented in modern history.”

With WCK and some other aid groups suspending operations out of safety and Israel blocking entry into Gaza for the U.N. agency tasked with helping Palestinians, there is very little hope that remaining families in the enclave will have the resources to survive.

“I have been a stranger at Seder dinners. I have heard the ancient Passover stories about being a stranger in the land of Egypt, the commandment to remember ― with a feast before you ― that the children of Israel were once slaves,” Andrés wrote.

“It is not a sign of weakness to feed strangers; it is a sign of strength. The people of Israel need to remember, at this darkest hour, what strength truly looks like.”

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