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Israel plans to adjust Gaza war tactics after killing of aid workers


Israel said on Thursday it would adjust tactics in the Gaza war tactics after killing seven aid workers in air strikes its military has acknowledged were a major mistake, and that inquiry findings would be made public soon.

Monday’s incident has stoked Western anger at the mounting civilian toll in the Palestinian enclave, especially as the slain World Central Kitchen staff included Australian, British and Polish citizens along with a US-Canadian dual national.

A Palestinian inspects near a vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike, according to the NGO as the Israeli military said it was conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this “tragic” incident, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on 2nd April, 2024. PICTURE: Reuters/Ahmed Zakot

At least 196 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza since October, according to the United Nations.

Israel’s leaders have voiced sorrow over what the military called a “grave mistake” after the misidentification of a WCK convoy at night in a complex combat zone.

Charity founder, chef Jose Andres, said the convoy was “systematically” targeted even though Israel’s military was aware of his staff’s movements.

Asked to respond, Israeli Government spokesperson Raquela Karamson said during a media briefing: “This was unintended.”

“Clearly something went wrong here, and as we learn more and the investigation reveals exactly what happened, and the cause of what happened, we will certainly adjust our practices in the future to make sure this does not happen again.”

She said publication of the investigation’s findings could take weeks. But the chief Israeli military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, appeared to give a much shorter timeline.

An investigators’ report was given to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday, Hagari said in a televised statement.

“And I believe that, after we present this to the ambassadors from the respective countries, and to the members of the WCK organisation, we will make it public in a clear, transparent manner – and that will happen soon,” he said.

Junior command?
Israel Ziv, a retired army general who formerly commanded the Gaza division, said the incident may have resulted from the military enabling more junior officers to authorise air strikes.

Whereas during quieter periods such an operation would require a green light from a division commander or a general in charge of regional forces, he said, “in wartime the situation is utterly transformed, because the number of threats is never-ending”.

“If you don’t allow greater latitude, further down the ranks, on opening fire, you endanger the troops and the war.”

A view of a vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike, according to the NGO as the Israeli military said it was conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this “tragic” incident, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip on 2nd April, 2024. PICTURE: Reuters/Ahmed Zakot/File Photo

Ziv noted that Israel, which went to war after Hamas gunmen rampaged in its southern towns and army bases on 7th October has been fighting both to destroy the Palestinian Islamists’ military capacity and deny them access to humanitarian aid sent to Gaza.

“That complicates the situation,” he told Reuters.

As a preliminary move to make amends for the WCK deaths, Israel said it would set up a joint operational coordination room with humanitarian agencies, located within the military’s Southern Command – where Gaza missions are directly managed.

An Israeli security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said ground forces in Gaza were down to around a quarter of their numbers at the height of the invasion, and focused on more pinpoint missions and securing conquered areas.

“This may have contributed to a feeling of ‘sitting duck’ vulnerability. Troops prefer to be on the offensive, rather than static and potentially open to attack or to seeing the enemy operate with relative freedom,” the official said.

“The investigation will have to determine, among other things, whether this kind of thinking affected the judgement of whoever decided that the convoy should be struck.”

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More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, Gazan medical officials say. Hamas has said 6,000 of its fighters are among the fatalities. Israeli officials say the Palestinian combatant death toll is more than twice as high.

“There is no war without mistakes – quite the opposite,” Ziv said. “But usually in this kind of combat the number of non-combatants killed, in relation to enemy dead, is higher than what the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] has caused [in Gaza].”

Meanwhile, the Doctors Without Borders medical charity (MSF) said on Thursday it rejected Israel’s position that an airstrike which killed seven aid workers was a “regrettable incident”, saying many humanitarian personnel have been attacked previously.

Seven workers from World Central Kitchen, which provides food relief in crisis and conflict zones, were killed when their convoy was hit on Monday night shortly after they oversaw the unloading of 100 tons of food brought to the Palestinian enclave by sea.

“We do not accept the narrative of regrettable incidents,” Christopher Lockyear, secretary general of MSF International, said at a press conference in Geneva.

“We do not accept it because what has happened to World Central Kitchen and MSF’s convoys and shelters is part of the same pattern of deliberate attacks on humanitarians, health workers, journalists, UN personnel, schools and homes.”

He added: “We have been saying it for weeks now: this pattern of attacks is either intentional or indicative of reckless incompetence.”

Israel has described the deadly incident as an operational accident and is invesigating it. It has consistently denied deliberately targeting civilians in its war with Hamas militants.

Lockyear said MSF remained present in Gaza in the wake of the killings but was assessing the risk to its teams on a daily basis.

He said the killings of the World Central Kitchen workers showed that measures to ease the conflict were futile “in a war fought with no rules”.

“That these attacks on humanitarian workers are allowed to happen is a political choice,” he said.

“Our movements and locations are shared, coordinated and identified already. This is about impunity, a total disregard for the laws of war. And now it must become about accountability.”

Lockyear said MSF had urged Israel to investigate a deadly attack on an MSF convoy in November and probe other incidents involving the organisation, including an Israeli attack on an MSF shelter in Al-Mawasi in February.

“I have received no explanation for any of the incidents,” Lockyear said.


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