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IDF removes 2 senior officers for failures leading to killing of 7 WCK aid workers

WCK rejects IDF investigation's credibility, calls for independent probe

The vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike, in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza, Strip April 2, 2024 (Photo: Ahmed Zakot/REUTERS).

Israel Defense Forces has discharged two high-ranking officers and reprimanded three other senior officers who shared responsibility for the oversights that resulted in the tragic deaths of seven WCK humanitarian aid workers in Gaza, the IDF announced on Friday.

Seven aid workers holding American, British, Australian and Polish citizenships were mistakenly killed in an Israeli strike on Monday night while traveling in two vehicles after delivering food in central Gaza for the World Central Kitchen (WCK) organization.

After the IDF immediately vowed to investigate the incident, the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Fact-Finding and Assessment Mechanism (FFAM) presented its findings to army chief Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi and the WCK, as well as international ambassadors and journalists, according to the IDF.

In a statement by the WCK shortly after the report’s publication, the organization called the IDF’s actions “important steps forward” but also called for “systemic change” in operating procedures and a “dramatic” increase of aid for Gaza.

“We demand the creation of an independent commission to investigate the killings of our WCK colleagues. The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza,” the organization wrote.

“Their apologies for the outrageous killing of our colleagues represent cold comfort,” WCK CEO Erin Gore added.

According to the report, forces of the Nahal Brigade identified two gunmen, one of whom was spotted opening fire at an unknown target, on one of the aid trucks of a convoy transferring humanitarian aid from the WCK to the Gaza Strip.

After the convoy was unloaded and the vehicles departed from the warehouse, one of the commanders mistakenly assumed that the gunmen were Hamas terrorists who were still hiding inside the accompanying vehicles.

Israeli forces did not identify the vehicles as being associated with WCK. While the WCK logo was printed on the side and the roof of the vehicles, the IDF soldiers didn’t recognize it during nighttime.

The army concluded that while the convoy’s movements were coordinated with the IDF, the information wasn’t properly passed from the command and division levels to the field levels.

The decision to attack the vehicles also wasn’t passed on to the higher commands but was taken based on an assessment at the Nahal Brigade’s headquarters and contrary to orders by the division commander.

Finally, the brigade decided to strike all three vehicles in the convoy, despite the gunmen being identified on only one of them.

“Those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives and not WCK employees,” according to the report.

“The strikes on the three vehicles were carried out in serious violation of the commands and IDF Standard Operating Procedures,” it continued.

“The strike on the aid vehicles is a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the Standard Operating Procedures.”

In light of the findings, Chief of Staff Halevi decided to promote the brigade’s fire support commander to the rank of major, and the brigade’s chief of staff, a colonel in reserves, will be dismissed from their position.

In addition, despite not being directly connected to the tragic incident, the Nahal Brigade’s commander, the 162nd Division commander, and the commander of the Southern Command will be formally reprimanded for their overall responsibility in the incident.

Preliminary steps taken by the IDF include the marking of aid vehicles with thermal stickers that can be identified by drones with thermal sensors, as well as a planned discussion with aid organizations to talk about additional ways to protect their personnel.

“The IDF takes seriously the grave incident that claimed the lives of seven innocent humanitarian aid workers. We express our deep sorrow for the loss and send our condolences to the families and the WCK organization,” the report said.

“We consider the vital humanitarian activity of international aid organizations to be of utmost importance, and we will continue to work to coordinate and assist their activities, while ensuring their safety and safeguarding their lives… The IDF will learn the lessons of the incident and will incorporate them into the IDF's ongoing operations.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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