Attacks on aid workers were ‘wrong’, admits Israel

Henry

Israel says its drone team targeted an “armed shooter from Hamas” when they carried out three air strikes on aid workers from the American charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) in Gaza on Monday.

Seven volunteers were killed during the airstrikes.

An internal Israeli military investigation has meanwhile found that the drone team committed an error of judgment after the team apparently spotted a suspected Hamas shooter on top of one of the organization’s aid trucks.

RNews earlier reported that seven employees of WCK were killed shortly after they unloaded food supplies at a warehouse.

The team was traveling in a convoy, including two armored vehicles with the organization’s branding on them, in an agreed conflict-free zone when it was hit.

Retired Israeli general Yoav Har-Even, who is leading the internal investigation, admitted on Friday that “the three airstrikes were contrary to standard operating procedures”.

The team was driving in a southerly direction on Monday after the delivery at 23:09 when the drone initially hit one vehicle in the convoy and identified people jumping out of the car and running towards a second vehicle.

“They decided to target the car as well, which was against standard operating procedures. Then they hit the third car.”

However, Har-Even argues that the “way of thinking” of the Israeli drone commanders “was that they hit cars seized by Hamas” after they mistook a bag for a firearm in the dark.

However, the general could not explain to AFP what happened to the “Hamas shooter”.

Har-Even says that although WCK’s logo was printed on the roofs of the aid workers’ three vehicles, the drone’s camera could not observe it in the dark.

At this stage, aid supplies are transported at night to avoid deadly rushes by starving Palestinians in Gaza.

“However, the biggest mistake was that (the drone team) did not have the coordination plan,” Har-Even believes. “They believed that the vehicles were those of Hamas; it is based on operational miscalculation and misclassification.”

The two officers who gave orders for the three air raids, a colonel and a major, are dismissed.

“It is a tragedy. This is a serious mistake for which we are responsible,” said Daniel Hagari, Israeli military spokesman.

“A huge incident… that should not have happened. We will make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Meanwhile, WCK insists that an independent commission investigate the incident as the Israeli army “cannot credibly investigate its own failure”.

Poland, which also lost a citizen in the attacks, is demanding a criminal investigation.

“We want (Polish) prosecutors to be involved in the explanations and in the entire criminal and disciplinary procedure for the soldiers responsible for this … murder,” said Andrzej Szejna, Poland’s deputy foreign minister.