World Central Kitchen wants independent probe into Israeli attack on aid convoy

Photo: The Hill – WCK staff killed by Israeli drone in Gaza. Top left to right: Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom of Australia, Damian Soból of Poland, and Jacob Flickinger of the U.S. and Canada. Bottom left to right: John Chapman of Britain, James Henderson of Britain and James Kirby of Britain.

  News services have reported that during the night of Monday 1st April 2024, an Israeli airstrike killed six international aid workers and a Palestinian driver in central Gaza.

Those killed included Melbourne-born Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, aged 43. Of the other victims, one was from Poland, three were from United Kingdom, and another was a US-Canada citizen.

The United States-based aid group, World Central Kitchen (WCK), confirmed on Tuesday that seven of its staff were killed in a “targetted attack” by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).  The attack occurred while its staff were delivering food from its latest shipment to Gaza where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been pushed to the brink of famine. This humanitarian catastrophe has resulted from Israel’s air and ground attacks and the restrictions it has imposed on food deliveries for over 5 months.

The WCK team was travelling in two armored cars and a soft skin vehicle which were conspicuously branded with the WCK logo. Reports indicate that an IDF Hermes 450 drone progressively fired three missiles at the convoy resulting in the destruction of each vehicle and the death of all seven WCK staff.

Despite travelling in a ‘deconflicted zone’ and coordinating their movements with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), WCK’s three vehicle convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza via a maritime route.

As a result of this latest Israeli atrocity, WCK reported that it was immediately suspending operations in the region.

World Central Kitchen’s response

The founder WCK, José Andrés, said his colleagues had finished delivering 100 tons of food in central Gaza when their three-car convoy was targeted “systematically, car by car.”

“This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,” Andrés said. “Even if we were not in coordination with the [Israel Defense Forces], no democratic country and no military can be targeting civilians and humanitarians.”1

WCK has called for the creation of an independent commission to investigate the killings of their colleagues. They have emphasised that the IDF cannot credibly investigate its latest atrocity in Gaza.

WCK has also called on the governments of Australia, Canada, the United States of America, Poland, and the United Kingdom to join it in demanding an independent, third-party investigation into the Israeli attacks, including whether they were carried out intentionally or otherwise violated international law.2

Australia’s response

Australia’s response has been predictably disappointing.

In response to this latest Israeli atrocity, PM Anthony Albanese called for a full, transparent explanation from Israel on how the deaths occurred. He said the killing of WCK staff in these circumstances is “outrageous and completely unacceptable.”3

When questioned if he accepted the IDF’s initial assessment that the targeting of the WCK vehicles was a case of “misidentification”, PM Albanese said Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu had taken responsibility for the strike during a phone call made earlier this week.

He said he would receive advice on the appropriate way forward but refused to be drawn on whether Australia would seek to have Israel charged for a war crime. Instead he said he would wait for Israel’s “full, transparent” report on the circumstances that led to the deaths of seven aid workers.4

The need for more action

Compared to WCK’s response to the tradegy, PM Albanese’s response is frustratingly inadequate, if not derisible.

Waiting for a report from the Israeli government, given its deplorable record in evading accountability in relation to its innumerable crimes in the occupied Palestinian Territories for decades, does little to honour Zomi Frankcom’s family, or the families of her slain colleagues.

As noted above, WCK has called for the creation of an independent commission to investigate the killing of their staff.  But not the Australian government. Rather PM Albanese is content to wait for Israel’s report on the killings. This is despite the fact that Israel has a history of failing to carry out “full, transparent” investigations of similar atrocities in the occupied Palestinian Territories over many decades.

In addition to this, on 26th January this year, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared that Israel’s military operations in Gaza since 7th October 2023, could plausibly be decribed as genocidal in nature. As well, Israel’s policy of using famine as a weapon of war against Palestinian civilians in Gaza has been condemned as a war crime.

Rather than waiting for Israel’s report which predictably will fail to be full and transparent, the Australian government needs to immediately back WCK’s demand for the creation of an independent commission to investigate the WCK killings.

PM Anthony Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong can also do much more in response to the humanitarian catastrophe and the genocide occuring in Gaza. For example:

  • Immediately apply significant sanctions against Israel’s political and military leadership for the deliberate killing of seven WCK aid workers whose convoy was targeted “systematically, car by car” by an IDF drone.
  • As a signatory to the Genocide Convention, take an active role in condemning Israel’s genocide in Gaza and actively support South Africa’s case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which it has failed to do so far.
  • Constructively engage with, and act on, the findings of the ICJ’s current investigation into Legal Consequences Arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem.5
  • Be transparent about the supply of Australian weapons and/or weapon components to Israel and suspend this trade immediately.
  • Condemn the U.S. for the diplomatic cover is has provided to the Netanyahu government in the United Nations and elsewhere. In addition, call upon the U.S. to immediately suspend its massive supply of weapons to Israel, without which Israel’s war on Gaza could not continue.
  • Demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire to Israel’s war on Gaza and an end to its use of starvation as a weapon of war, along with its goal of mass ethnic cleansing.6
  • Last but not least, actively advocate in international forums for (i) Palestinian Statehood and (ii) a two-State solution in order to resolve the decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict and work conscientiously with other nations to see these implemented.

Australia’s appeasement of the Zionist lobby and the United States, together with its resort to blatant double standards when responding to hostilities in Gaza compared to the Ukraine, must end. Its failure to actively support the international community in condemning Israel’s genocidal actions in Gaza has only contributed to the latest tragedy involving WCK staff.

Notes
1. Larisha Paul & Ryan Bort, ‘José Andrés Says Israel Targeted World Central Kitchen Workers ‘Systematically’’, Rolling Stone, Apr 3, 2024.
2. Paula Andrés, ‘World Central Kitchen demands independent probe into Israel’s deadly bombing‘, Politico, Apr 3, 2024.
3. ABC News, ‘World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés says Israel targeted his aid workers ‘systematically, car by car”, Apr 4, 2024.
4. Ibid.
5. Amnesty International, ‘Israel must end its occupation of Palestine to stop fuelling apartheid and systematic human rights violations’, Feb 19, 2024.
6. United Nations, ‘UN expert warns of new instance of mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, calls for immediate ceasefire’, Oct 14, 2023.

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