José Andrés on World Central Kitchen’s Gaza return: ‘We need to see Israeli forces step up’

José Andrés, celebrity chef and founder of nonprofit World Central Kitchen (WCK), called on Israel to “step up” in a new op-ed, where he said his organization will resume aid trips in Gaza after seven workers were killed.

In the piece, Andrés said returning to Gaza is both the hardest and easiest decision to make, because his employees were killed April 1 but because the need for food is so great.

“We cannot stand by while so many people are so desperate for the essentials of life,” he wrote in the Washington Post. “Food is a universal human right, and we will not cease until those basic human rights are respected.”

Andrés said WCK has 267 trucks loaded with 8 million meals ready to enter Gaza through the southern Rafah crossing. The organization is also sending trucks from Jordan to address northern Gaza.

Last week, Andrés and others memorialized the seven employees killed at a service at the Washington National Cathedral.

The workers were leaving a warehouse in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza after delivering food. They were driving in a “deconflicted zone” in two armored cars when an Israeli airstrike hit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed responsibility for the unintended strike but also said things like it happen in war.

The incident sparked international outrage.

Andrés said WCK is restarting its mission “with what is at best a limited understanding of how humanitarian aid workers will be protected in the coming weeks and months.”

He said the organization expects and insists the Israeli military protect the lives of the Palestinian team members helping distribute aid.

Since the military errantly killed the workers, the military has said it has improved communication, but Andrés said the communication failures continue. He wrote that since there’s no “law and order on the ground in Gaza,” the workers have no security to protect themselves and the people they’re there to help.

“As we resume operations, we need to see Israeli forces step up to their responsibilities and promises to let humanitarian groups do their work,” he said. “We expect the [Israeli military] to develop, communicate, and deliver clear safety protocols and measures for humanitarian aid workers across Gaza immediately.”

Andrés said he expects the military to abide by its own protocols and cooperate with an independent investigation into the airstrikes that killed the workers.

“We also expect the Biden administration to hold the Netanyahu government true to its commitments on humanitarian aid,” he said.

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