7 World Central Kitchen aid workers were killed in Gaza. Why it matters, and what comes next.

Seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen (WCK) 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.

🚨🚨🚨 What just happened? 🚨🚨🚨

Three ships carrying more than 400 tons of food aid had arrived in Gaza on Monday. WCK aid workers had offloaded 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 (IDF).

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

📖 The background

The WCK 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, which 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 feeling "catastrophic" hunger.

▶️ Why it's important

Aid organizations and 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 — before the WCK tragedy happened — 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 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.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his condolences during a press conference in Paris on Tuesday. “They have been doing extraordinary, brave work day in, day out,” Blinken said. “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?

Blinken said Tuesday that the U.S. has spoken to Israel and has urged a “swift, thorough and impartial investigation to understand exactly what happened.” He also reiterated 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. Ships carrying roughly 240 tons of vital humanitarian food aid have now turned back from Gaza, according to Cyprus, the Associated Press reported.

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