Will Israel Find Its Hands Tied Against Hamas Following ‘Tragic’ Deaths of Seven Aid Workers in Gaza?

While Israel of course had no strategic interest in hitting a car belonging to an organization with which it has worked, a new French-proposed UN resolution to end the Gaza war could get a boost after the apparently accidental attack.

AP/Ismael Abu Dayyah
A vehicle with the World Central Kitchen logo that was wrecked by an Israeli airstrike at Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, April 2, 2024. AP/Ismael Abu Dayyah

Will Tuesday’s tragic deaths of seven aid workers in Gaza, including one American, be used to boost global attempts to end the Gaza war, including through a new French-proposed United Nations resolution? Is America planning to dangle peace with Saudi Arabia as a tool to add pressure on Israel? 

The Israel Defense Force promised a quick and thorough, independent investigation into what Prime Minister Netanyahu called a “tragic” early morning incident. An IDF drone targeted three cars, including one carrying volunteers with the World Central Kitchen, a nongovernmental organization working in coordination with Israel to distribute food to needy Gazans. 

Acting on apparently faulty intelligence, the drone operator seemed to have pulled the trigger on cars suspected of carrying terrorists among aid workers. That is even though Israel considers the WCK and similar NGOs better alternatives for aid distribution than more established bodies that it has shown to be allied with Hamas, like the UN Relief and Works Agency.  

While Israel is investigating the apparently erroneous attack, world condemnation is coming in hard and fast. “The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing,” the WCK’s founder, Jose Andres, wrote on X, as the NGO said it would suspend its Gaza operations. 

In what could deal a death blow to President Biden’s initiative for a pier near Gaza’s shores that would coordinate aid distribution, the United Arab Emirates announced in the aftermath of the incident that it would cease cooperation with the American project. 

Israel, of course, had no strategic interest in hitting a car belonging to an organization with which it has worked. The IDF says its investigation is a high priority and that it will treat the killings as seriously as it does incidents of “friendly fire.” As the IDF spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, noted, while the WCK now works in Gaza, it also “came to help Israelis” after October 7.  

“These people are heroes, they run into the fire, not away from it,” Secretary Blinken said on Tuesday, adding that he “urged a swift, a thorough, and impartial investigation.” Washington is “well aware that Gaza is a war zone,” the national security council’s spokesman, John Kirby, said, adding that Israel nevertheless must do more to protect aid workers.   

Mr. Blinken spoke at Paris, where he had flown earlier for talks on Ukraine and Gaza with his French counterpart. The Paris foreign minister, Stephane Sejourne, was more blunt than American officials, expressing his “utter condemnation” of the Gaza incident, saying that “nothing can justify such a tragedy.”

Israeli officials are concerned that the deaths of aid workers would undermine the delicate balance between the IDF’s efforts to facilitate aid even as it attempts to end Hamas’s military capabilities and its civilian control over Gaza. Jerusalem is bracing for growing international pressure to end the military campaign and start the rehabilitation of Gaza.    

While at Paris, Mr. Blinken heard from his counterpart about the French initiative for a new UN Security Council resolution to end the Gaza war. A proposed text was distributed to council members on Monday. It ambitiously purports to resolve all outstanding Israeli-Palestinian issues once and for all, even expressing an intent to soon “welcome the State of Palestine as a full” UN member.

Beyond calling for an immediate cease-fire and unconditional release of all hostages, the French proposal would demand uninterrupted humanitarian access to the Strip and call for the re-establishment of Palestinian Authority control over Gaza.

Late last month America abstained on a council resolution that it helped write. Washington’s involvement raised expectations at Turtle Bay for a growing UN involvement in ending the war and in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. 

America, meanwhile, is launching some ambitious diplomacy of its own. On Tuesday the national security adviser, Jacob Sullivan, arrived at Riyadh in an attempt to revive efforts for a Saudi-Israeli peace treaty. Reports last year that a treaty was nearing completion prompted Iran’s proxy, Hamas, to launch the October 7 attack. 

The Islamic Republic’s efforts to undermine any Arab-Israeli rapprochement is at the heart of its proxy war against Israel. Yet, as the IDF is raising the ante by punishing Iranian terrorists responsible for arming and training these proxies, America is distancing itself from the Israeli actions. 

On Tuesday, Washington officials sent a message to Tehran, clarifying that America was uninvolved in the missile strike that killed an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general, Mohammad Reza Zahedi. America was not informed in advance of the operation, the message reportedly said.

Despite wide condemnations across the region, many Sunni Arabs applauded Israel’s killing of Zahedi, who was responsible for tightening the IRGC’s grip over several Arab states. On Tuesday Tehran’s supreme leader threatened a major retaliation. Mr. Biden nevertheless seems intent on appeasing the regime that has long undermined Washington’s declared Mideast goals.

The New York Sun

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