Pentagon chief ‘expressed his outrage’ to Israeli counterpart over aid workers’ deaths

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “expressed his outrage” with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during a call Wednesday, after seven aid workers were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza earlier this week.

A convoy of vehicles for the charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) was struck multiple times by the Israeli military Monday after leaving one of the group’s warehouses where it dropped off food aid.

“Secretary Austin stressed the need to immediately take concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza after repeated coordination failures with foreign aid groups,” Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said of the call. “Secretary Austin urged Minister Gallant to conduct a swift and transparent investigation, to share their conclusions publicly, and to hold those responsible to account.”

The convoy coordinated its plan to move through a “deconflicted zone” with the Israeli military prior to the attack, WCK said.

The seven WCK volunteers killed in the strike were from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom and Palestine, and one was a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada.

“Secretary Austin stated that this tragedy reinforced the expressed concern over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, specifically focusing on the need to ensure the evacuation of Palestinian civilians and the flow of humanitarian aid,” he added.

The Biden administration has long pressured the Israeli military to prevent civilian casualties in the Israel-Hamas war and to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, to little effect, as a million people face the onset of famine, according to the United Nations.

The Israeli military took responsibility for the strike, claiming it was caused by a miscommunication and false intelligence that a Hamas militant was with the group.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Israelis are “conducting a thorough inquiry.”

“This happens in war,” he said in a statement.

Renowned chef José Andrés, founder of WCK, admonished the Israeli military Wednesday, saying the group was “systematically” targeted “car by car.”

“This was not just a bad luck situation, where ‘Oops we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,'” Andrés told Reuters. “Even if we were not in coordination with the [Israeli military], no democratic country and no military can be targeting civilians and humanitarians.”

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