D.C. Reax

Israel faces Democratic fallout over Gaza strike killing World Central Kitchen staff

President Biden: Israel’s investigation ‘must be swift, it must bring accountability, and its findings must be made public’

Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Palestinians stand next to a vehicle in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on April 2, where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike, according to the NGO. The Israeli military is stating that it is conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this ''tragic'' incident, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Israel is facing widespread criticism from Democrats over the airstrike on Monday night that killed seven foreign aid workers with celebrity chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen in Gaza. 

News of the incident prompted some leading Democrats to reiterate their opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the war and push for Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into the region. But few lawmakers proposed any new policy changes as a result of the deadly strike, generally expressing sympathy for the victims while calling for an investigation to determine what transpired.

Netanyahu took responsibility on Tuesday for the incident, which he called a “tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip.” An Israeli drone struck a World Central Kitchen convoy heading to Deir al-Balah three times on Monday, despite the cars being clearly marked as belonging to aid workers. 

IDF Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Israel’s military chief, said early Wednesday that the results of a preliminary investigation found that the incident was caused by a “misidentification.”

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification – at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said, adding that he expects the “thorough investigation” currently being conducted will be complete within the coming days.

President Joe Biden said in a statement that Israel’s investigation “must be swift, it must bring accountability, and its findings must be made public.” Biden also criticized Israel for not doing enough to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance into Gaza. 

“Even more tragically, this is not a stand-alone incident. This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed,” Biden said in a statement released Tuesday evening. “This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult – because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians. Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen.”

Earlier Tuesday, senior Biden administration officials urged caution before rushing to judgment. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby and Secretary of State Tony Blinken separately noted that the U.S. has urged Israel to investigate the incident.

“Israelis have already admitted that this was a mistake that they made,” Kirby said at a White House briefing. “They’re doing an investigation, they’ll get to the bottom of this. Let’s not get ahead of that.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a frequent Israel critic who has called for a six-week cease-fire to allow for the evacuation of Gazans and the distribution of humanitarian aid, called the incident “outrageous.”

The Connecticut senator, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing homeland security funding, said that it is currently “near impossible for enough urgently needed humanitarian assistance to reach Gaza. Israel must immediately suspend military operations inside Gaza and allow for a dramatic surge in humanitarian aid.”

Murphy and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, separately called on Israel to set up a “deconfliction” program to allow for humanitarian groups to operate safely.

“Israel must open additional crossings to allow humanitarian aid to be immediately delivered into the region – these critical resources have been held up for far too long,” DeLauro said. “There need to be at least 500 trucks going into the region with aid per day. The deconfliction system for humanitarian deliveries must be improved so aid workers can have confidence in their security.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the former House speaker, called the episode “an outrage. Our prayers are with these heroes and their families during this sad time — as well as with the innocent civilians killed and families suffering in Gaza.”

“José Andrés and his team are angels on the earth, with unimaginable courage. They are putting their own lives on the line to save lives in Gaza and around the world. Their heroism must not be met with violence,” Pelosi continued. “The government of Israel must allow the flow of life-saving aid to innocent families in Gaza and ensure safe passage for those delivering the aid. Hunger cannot be a weapon of war. We must share our food and our humanity.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement: “World Central Kitchen helps feed the people most in need around the world. I’m praying for the loved ones of those killed in Gaza.

“We must keep working to do more for protection for delivery of aid, provision of assistance to innocent civilians, and relief for the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza,” he added. 

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a reliable supporter of Israel and close Biden ally, said the incident makes a resolution of the crisis more urgent. “My heart goes out to World Central Kitchen and the families of the seven brave aid workers killed by an Israeli air strike yesterday,” Coons wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Too many aid workers have died in this conflict, which makes the prompt resolution of this truly tragic incident even more urgent. A swift but thorough investigation must occur and those responsible for the mistakes that led to their deaths held accountable.”

No Republican lawmakers spoke out about the deadly strike. 

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on X that he was “pained” by news of the strikes and sent his “deepest condolences to the WCK team & families.” He also called on the IDF to investigate, writing that, “These senseless deaths are further evidence that the hostages must come home & Hamas must surrender so this terrible war will finally end.”

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