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Behind aid worker deaths in Gaza: the attempt to kill a terrorist who wasn’t there

Bad intelligence and a willingness to sacrifice civilians to capture terrorists led to the aid worker tragedy. The latter is also key to international concern over the proposed Rafah invasion.
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One of the veichels hit in the airstrike near Deir al-Balah, on Tuesday (Ahmed Zakot/ Reuters/Haaretz)

Published: 4 April 2024

Last updated: 4 April 2024

The Israeli strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers in Gaza on Monday night was launched because of suspicion that a terrorist was travelling with the convoy.

An Israeli drone fired three missiles one after the other at a WCK aid convoy that left to escort an aid truck to a food warehouse in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, defence sources told Haaretz.

According to the sources, the cars were clearly marked on the roof and sides as belonging to the organisation, but the war room of the unit responsible for security of the route identified an armed man on the truck and suspected that he was a terrorist. It ordered the drone operators to attack the cars.

In fact the suspect terrorist never left the warehouse.

Seven WCK volunteers were killed in the strike, among them Australian Lalzawmi Zomi Frankcom, three British citizens, a Polish citizen, a Canadian-American dual citizen and their Palestinian driver.

Aid operations paused

WCK has worked on both sides of the conflict, working with IsraAid to provide more than 500,000 meals to displaced, vulnerable Israelis in wake of the Hamas attack and providing 1.4 million meals in Gaza.

After the deaths, it announced a temporary halt to its operations in Gaza. A ship that had departed for Gaza with aid returned to Cyprus.

Some other aid operations have also paused activities in the wake of the strike.

Derek Madsen, chief development officer of Anera (American Near East Refugee Aid) said the agency could not operate safely. "Currently, our staff feel that they can no longer safely do this given the consistent escalated nature of the strikes against humanitarian aid workers," he said. 

The deaths of international workers have attracted attention but at least 196 local humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza, according to Oxfam Australia's head of humanitarian Lucia Goldsmith.

"The only way to ensure that aid can be delivered safely is if there is a permanent ceasefire in place," she said. 

Investigation promised

Israel has accepted responsibility for the aid workers’ deaths and promised a full investigation.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese emphasised Australia’s demand for “full accountability and transparency” in a conversation with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday morning. 

“I made clear again that it is Australia’s view that humanitarian assistance must reach people in Gaza unimpeded and in large quantities.

“I conveyed to Prime Minister Netanyahu in very clear terms that Australians were outraged by this death, by this tragedy of this fine Australian,” he said.

The Biden administration has said it is “outraged” by the attack.

Jewish groups, including the partner charity IsraAid, also expressed their concern over the loss of civilian life. The Zionist Federation of Australia said it mourned the death of Frankcom. “This was the result of a terrible mistake. Like Australia, Israel does not target civilians,” said President Jeremy Leibler.

Rafah operation still under debate

Albanese used his conversation with Netanyahu to emphasise Australia’s wider concern about Israel’s operations in Gaza.

“I indicated my concern with a ground invasion of Rafah, and the consequences for the civilian population there.

"I reiterated Australia’s concern at the loss of life that has occurred in Gaza. I reiterated Australia’s condemnation, unequivocally, of the events of October 7 and of Hamas as a terrorist organisation,” he said.

A virtual meeting on Monday between US and Israeli officials to discuss a potential IDF ground operation in Rafah was reportedly marked by tensions and accusations as Washington expressed deep scepticism over Israeli plans to operate in the southernmost Gaza city.

The two-hour video call between US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the American side, and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi on the Israeli side was extremely “difficult,” a Tuesday Channel 12 report claimed, stating that it showed the US and Israel are on “completely different pages” when it comes to Israel’s planned operation in Rafah where Jerusalem says four Hamas battalions remain.

The US representatives expressed deep concern about the threat of famine in Gaza and were highly critical of the IDF’s plans for Rafah, saying its evacuation proposal for the million-plus noncombatants in the city was unimpressive and not implementable.


IDF Drone bombed world central kitchen aid convoy three times, targeting armed Hamas member who wasn't there (Haaretz) 

Since October 7, World Central Kitchen has served millions of meals in Israel and Gaza (Times of Israel)

Almost 200 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza. This is what organisations do to try to keep staff safe (ABC)

Biden administration ‘outraged’ by Israeli strike that killed 7 aid workers, as humanitarian groups suspend operations in Gaza (JTA)

Netanyahu promises Albanese a full investigation into Australian aid worker’s death, as Israel accepts responsibility (The Conversation)

Report: US tells Israel its Rafah evacuation plan not viable in ‘harsh’ video call (Times of Israel)


  • Avatar of Wesley Parish

    Wesley Parish4 April at 10:08 am

    Quote The Zionist Federation of Australia said it mourned the death of Frankcom. “This was the result of a terrible mistake. Like Australia, Israel does not target civilians,” said President Jeremy Leibler. Unquote.

    Quote “‘In practice, a terrorist is anyone the IDF has killed in the areas in which its forces operate,’ says a reserve officer who has served in Gaza… Haaretz. Unquote.

    I think Haaretz knows a bit more about the IDF’s modus operandi than the Zionist Federation of Australia.

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