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Israel dismisses 2 officers after deadly aid convoy strike

Galit Altstein | Bloomberg News (TNS)

The Israeli army dismissed two officers over a missile strike on a World Central Kitchen vehicle convoy this week that killed seven aid workers.

Monday’s assault was “a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Friday, concluding an investigation into the incident. It was “due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to standard operating procedures.”

The discharged officers were a colonel and a major. The IDF’s chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, also formally reprimanded the head of the Southern Command, which includes Gaza, for his overall responsibility.

World Central Kitchen, a disaster-relief group founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, said in response that although the IDF has acknowledged responsibility, it still wants “the creation of an independent commission to investigate the killings of our WCK colleagues.”

“The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza,” WCK said in a statement.

Three British nationals were killed in the attack along with a Palestinian, a Pole, an Australian and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration is reviewing Israel’s report on the incident as part of a broader evaluation of efforts to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza and prevent more civilian deaths.

“It’s very important that Israel is taking full responsibility for this incident,” Blinken told reporters Friday before departing Brussels. “It’s also important that it appears to be taking steps to hold those responsible accountable. Even more important, is making sure that steps are taken going forward to ensure that something like this can never happen again.”

The fatal incident was front-page news across the world and angered Israel’s allies. U.S. President Joe Biden said he was “outraged” and told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday that U.S. support for Israel’s campaign in Gaza depends on new steps to protect civilians.

Following the call between the two leaders, Israel said that it would help boost the flow of aid to “prevent a humanitarian crisis.”

Israel will allow the delivery of aid into Gaza through the previously closed Erez checkpoint in the north of the enclave, and increase the amount of goods entering via Kerem Shalom in the south. Still, Israel has said distribution of aid once it gets into Gaza is a significant problem.

Mistaken identity

The IDF said its forces recognized two gunmen and that Monday’s attack was approved after one of the commanders mistakenly assumed they were in the convoy. The forces did not identify the vehicles as being associated with WCK.

Israel’s war in Gaza, triggered by the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas terrorists that killed 1,200 people and saw 250 abducted, will enter it’s seventh month next week. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says the number of Palestinians killed now exceeds 32,000.

Recent negotiations for a cease-fire in return for the release of hostages have stalled.

Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union.

(With assistance from Courtney McBride.)

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