Israel dismisses 2 officers over deadly drone strikes on aid workers in Gaza

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military on Friday dismissed two officers and reprimanded three others for their roles in a drone strike that killed seven aid workers on a food delivery mission in the Gaza Strip. announced. The officers were accused of mishandling important information and violating military regulations.

The retired general’s findings into Monday’s killings come in the face of growing criticism from key allies, including the United States, that he is not doing enough to protect Gaza’s civilians from the war with the militant Hamas group. It showed Israel’s embarrassing confession.

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The findings could reinforce widespread skepticism about Israeli military decision-making. Palestinians, aid groups and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Israeli forces of recklessly firing on civilians throughout the conflict, an accusation Israel denies.

People inspect the scene where a World Central Kitchen worker was killed in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Aid group World Central Kitchen said at least seven people were killed in Israeli military attacks on workers in the Gaza Strip, including several foreigners. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

“It’s a tragedy,” military spokesman Maj. Gen. Daniel Hagari told reporters. “This is a serious incident for which we are responsible, it should not have happened, and we will ensure it never happens again.”

Hagari and other officials shared their findings with reporters late Thursday as pressure on Israel mounts.

The speed of the investigation and the prompt punishment of the five executives were unprecedented. Such investigations are often time-consuming and almost always end without charges being filed. Human rights activists have long complained that the Israeli military operates with impunity, a claim the military denies.

Still, the punishment and apology are unlikely to quell the growing international outcry over the World Central Kitchen employee’s death, and the restart of operations in Gaza, where nearly a third of the population lives, is unlikely. It also seems unlikely to reassure international aid groups that it is safe. On the brink of starvation.

The military declined to answer questions about whether similar rules of engagement violations occurred during the war. In addition to many civilian deaths, more than 220 humanitarian workers have died in the conflict, including at least 30 killed in the line of duty, according to the United Nations.

World Central Kitchen called the investigation and disciplinary action “an important step forward,” but said more needs to be done.

“Without systemic change, there will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families,” the statement said, repeatedly calling for an independent investigation.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was important that Israel be held accountable and that the US would review the findings “to see not just what steps are being taken, but their consequences.” .

A military spokesperson said that under Israeli military rules of engagement, officers must have multiple reasons to identify someone as a target before being attacked. However, an investigation revealed that the colonel authorized a series of deadly drone attacks on the convoy based on one major’s observation (from grainy drone camera footage) that someone in the convoy was armed. found.

That observation turned out to be untrue, military officials said.

The colonel and major were dismissed and three other officers were disciplined, the most senior of whom was the commander of the Southern Command, the military said. The results of the investigation will be handed over to the military tribunal general, who will decide whether the officers and others involved in the killing should face further punishment or be prosecuted.

The killing was condemned by Israel’s closest allies. They heightened criticism of Israel’s actions in its nearly six-month war with Hamas and brought new focus to the dire situation in Gaza. Humanitarian organization Oxfam says people in the northern enclave have been living on an average of 245 calories a day since January, which is less than the amount found in a can of fava beans and 12% of the recommended daily intake. It’s less than that.

Israel has promised to further open border crossings to Gaza and increase the flow of aid into the territory. But Blinken said Friday that these steps may not be enough to meet the Biden administration’s demands for a dramatic improvement in the humanitarian situation.

If fully implemented, this measure could increase aid to the Palestinians. But the United States also wants to take concrete steps to better protect civilians and aid workers, he said.

It was not immediately clear when the Erez checkpoint on the hard-hit northern border with Gaza would open or how much additional cargo it could handle. The intersection was built to handle passenger traffic, but was badly damaged in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the war.

In New York, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Israel had acknowledged its mistake and punished the officers.

“But the essential issue is not who made the mistake, but the military strategy and procedures that allow that mistake to be repeated over and over again,” he said. “Correcting these failures requires independent research and meaningful, measurable changes on the ground.”

He called for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all Israeli hostages held by Hamas, and a “leapfrog” in providing humanitarian aid.

Those killed on Monday included three British nationals, a Polish national, an Australian national, a Canadian-American dual national, and a Palestinian national, all of whom were slain by World Central, the international charity founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres.・I was working in the kitchen.

The investigation, led by retired General Yoav Haeven, found two major areas of wrongdoing.

Police accused officers of failing to read out a message warning forces that cars, not aid trucks, would be transporting charity workers from warehouses where aid was being distributed. As a result, the targeted vehicle was mistakenly identified as transporting insurgents.

The military also accused the major who identified the target and the colonel who authorized the attack of acting with insufficient information.

The military said the order was issued after one of the passengers in the car was identified as the gunman. The newspaper said the military became suspicious after a man with a gun was seen standing on the roof of a delivery truck on its way to the warehouse.

The military showed reporters footage of the gunman firing a gun while riding on top of a truck, but The Associated Press could not independently verify the footage.

After relief supplies were dropped off at the warehouse, officers believed they saw the gunman get into one of the cars. It was determined that the passenger was not in possession of a weapon. The military said he may have only been carrying a bag.

The military later announced that one vehicle had been hit. People rushed to get into a second car, which was also struck. The same thing happened when the survivors fled into a third car.


World Central Kitchen and the military coordinated the movement of the convoy and said the vehicles were marked with the organization’s logo. However, military officials claimed that the drone operator could not see the text because it was night.

The military was unable to say exactly where communications regarding the convoy’s plans had ceased.

“Let’s be clear: this is a tragedy, but it’s not an anomaly,” Oxfam’s Scott Paul told a conference with other relief organizations Thursday before the Israeli findings were released. He said: “The killing of aid workers in Gaza is systematic.”