Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen Charity Halts Gaza Food Delivery Operations After Israeli Strike Kills 7 Staffers

Prime Minister Netanyahu acknowledges that the country’s forces had carried out the ‘unintended strike … on innocent people.’

AP/Abdel Kareem Hana
The site where 7 World Central Kitchen workers were killed at Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, April 2, 2024. AP/Abdel Kareem Hana

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — An Israeli airstrike killed seven staffers from World Central Kitchen, leading the charity to suspend delivery Tuesday of food to the war-torn Gaza Strip.

Ships still laden with some 240 tons of aid that arrived just a day earlier turned back from Gaza, according to Cyprus, which has played a key role in trying to establish a sea route to bring food to the territory. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu acknowledged that the country’s forces had carried out the “unintended strike … on innocent people.” He said officials were looking into the strike and would work to ensure it did not happen again.

Footage showed the bodies, several wearing protective gear with the charity’s logo, at a hospital at the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah. 

Those killed include three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen, and a Palestinian Arab, according to hospital records.

Other footage of the aftermath of the strike showed a vehicle with the charity’s logo printed across its roof to make it identifiable from the air. The projectile had punched a large hole through the roof.

In the face of concerns over food shortages in Gaza’s north, several countries worked to open a sea route, hoping it would allow more aid to enter. 

America and other countries have also airdropped aid, but humanitarian workers say such efforts on their own are insufficient.

World Central Kitchen, a food charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, was key to the new route. 

Israel has barred the main United Nations agency in Gaza from making deliveries to the north, and other aid groups say sending truck convoys north has been extremely difficult because of the military’s failure to either grant permission or ensure safe passage.

Mr. Andrés — whose charity operates in several countries wracked by wars or natural disasters, including Israel after the October 7 attack that triggered the war — said he was “heartbroken” by the deaths.

“The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon,” the chef wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The charity said the team was traveling in a three-car convoy that included two armored vehicles, and its movements had been coordinated with the Israeli army.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the top military spokesman, said that officials have been “reviewing the incident at the highest levels” and that an independent investigation will be launched.

A Washington-based aid group that has been operating in the Palestinian territories for decades, Anera, said that in the wake of the strike it was taking the “unprecedented” step of pausing its own operations in Gaza, where it had been helping to provide around 150,000 meals daily.

“The escalating risks associated with aid delivery leave us with no choice but to halt operations until our staff regain confidence that they can do their work without undue risk,” it said in a statement.

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Jamie McGoldrick, said the strike was “not an isolated incident,” noting that around 200 humanitarian workers have been killed since the war broke out in October.

“This is nearly three times the death toll recorded in any single conflict in a year,” he said.

On Monday, three aid ships from the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus arrived with some 400 tons of food and supplies organized by World Central Kitchen and the United Arab Emirates following a pilot run last month.

A Cypriot Foreign Ministry spokesman, Theodoros Gotsis, said Tuesday that around 100 tons of aid had been unloaded before the charity suspended operations, and that the remaining 240 tons of aid would be taken back to Cyprus.

America, which has provided key military support for Israel’s offensive, has touted the sea route and plans to build its own floating dock, with construction expected to take several weeks.

America, Britain, Poland, and Australia — whose citizens were among those killed, according to the hospital — called for an investigation or an explanation from Israel.

A National Security Council spokeswoman, Adrienne Watson, said America was “heartbroken and deeply troubled” by the strike, while the British foreign secretary, David Cameron, called it “deeply distressing.”

The New York Sun

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