People inspect the site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, April 2, 2024.

Aid worker says they can’t operate after 7 World Center Kitchen staffers are killed in Israeli strike

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed seven aid workers from the relief group World Central Kitchen (WCK) overnight. Among the dead were three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian. The World’s host Carolyn Beeler speaks to Sean Carroll, the CEO of ANERA, which works closely with WCK, about the incident.

The World

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza overnight killed seven aid workers from the relief group World Central Kitchen. The aid workers had just left a warehouse in armored vehicles. The group’s logo was printed across the roofs of those vehicles to make them identifiable from the air.

Among the dead were three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident tragic and said Israeli forces unintentionally hit innocent people.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for greater protection for aid workers.

“We want full accountability for this because this is a tragedy that should never have occurred,” Albanese said.

The World Central Kitchen has since halted its Gaza operations. So has its longtime partner, ANERA, American Near East Refugee Aid. Sean Carroll is ANERA’s chief executive officer and spoke to The World’s host Carolyn Beeler about the situation.

Carolyn Beeler: Sean, I know your staffers work very closely on the ground with some of those killed yesterday. So, this must be a very emotional moment for you. Is that right?
Sean Carroll: It is. It is very much so, and particularly for our staff that were working day in and day out, both in-person and over WhatsApp chat groups in Cairo, in Gaza, in Amman, it’s hit them very, very hard.
I gather you talked to José Andrés, the head of World Central Kitchen, last night. How did the two of you make any sense of what has happened?
You can’t make any sense of what’s happened. And we haven’t heard a good explanation yet. We’re not experts in investigation of bomb scenes, but I think it’s a pretty big stretch to say that this was an accident and it was unintentional. They were in three vehicles, and each one of them appears to have been targeted in succession. I’ve heard horrifying accounts of what actually happened, and I think in any context around the world, this would be called a brazen act of cowardice, senseless, unjustified, no explanation is possible. And so, I think the world needs to, before it hangs its head in shame, needs to scratch its head and ask some really tough questions. How could this happen? How did we get to this point?
So, you don’t believe the Israeli assertation that this was an accident?
I mean, looking at the photos and the videos, how could that be an accident? Three separate vehicles were hit. I would imagine World Central Kitchen is going to want a better explanation than that. And we’re still waiting for an explanation on the death of our staffer, Mousa Shawwa, who was killed just under a month ago, and his 6 year old son died a few days after of his wounds. And we’ve also not gotten an explanation.
Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, April 2, 2024.
Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, April 2, 2024.Ismael Abu Dayyah/AP
Both your group and World Central Kitchen coordinate with the Israeli military over the movement of your aid vehicles, I understand. Can you explain how that works?
Yeah, and this is a standard operating procedure in areas of conflict and in war zones where humanitarian organizations and workers de-conflict with the warring parties, to let them know who we are, where we are, what we’re doing. We de-conflicted many times over the last few months with Israeli authorities, with the military on where our shelters are that were sheltering our staff and their families, where our offices, our distribution centers, our cars. And, my understanding, I have no reason to doubt it is World Central Kitchen had done all of that, including names of drivers and license plates, and their cars were all clearly marked, and two of them were armored cars. So, this is not easily explained. And it needs to be explained because humanitarian aid needs to continue, obviously for the sake of Palestinians, but also for the longterm security of Israel. There can’t be security for Israel, there can’t be any semblance of peace and living side-by-side and equal measures of peace and safety and security and dignity when these senseless acts make it so that people can’t understand how they could live side-by-side, and and for the sake of humanity.
Can you tell me more about how aid groups such as yourself and World Central Kitchen actually get aid in and out of Gaza? What is that process like and what is your footprint on the ground?
Well, it’s far too difficult. Our footprint on the ground is not large, but it’s very effective. It’s very trusted, well-known. We have a good reputation. ANERA has been working in Palestine, in the occupied Palestinian territories, for over 55 years. We’ve been in the same office for 40 years until we had to leave it at the beginning of this war in Gaza City, but we still have staff in Gaza City. We have staff in Rafah. We did have staff in the middle area in Deir al-Balah where this attack took place. Until they actually had to evacuate the shelter they were in, they were feeling relatively safe. The shelter was de-conflicted, but three bullet holes went through the windows in late December, early January, and we still don’t have an explanation on that either. So, staff, like everyone else in Gaza, have moved, have been evacuated several times. They live in fear all the time. And we, like World Central Kitchen, have made the difficult and extremely unfortunate decision to pause our operations because of the lack of safety. Our staff, until now, until this attack, every day had said “We’re going to keep delivering aid. Yes, we’re fearful, we fear for our lives. We really fear for our family’s lives. But we’re going to keep delivering aid if it’s the last thing we do.” And now they finally said, “We can’t operate.” International law, humanitarian law, does call for the occupying power, or the power that controls the population, in this case, Israel, it is their responsibility to provide the essentials for sustenance and for living and foods and medicine and clothing and shelter. And, if they’re not providing it, they need to allow it to be provided by others. And at this point, we’re in a situation where that’s not happening. And again, I would call on the Israeli society and institutions to work with us and understand that, the work that we’re doing is the best hope for longterm peace and stability. But if we undercut humanity at this base level, it’s hard to see any hope for humanity and certainly any hope for peaceful coexistence.
I understand, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but that the IDF has to approve individual drivers for convoys and also controls windows of time when they can drive. Is that correct?
Yeah, I think that’s correct. Particularly going up to the north when you have to cross through conflict areas and that has to be done. And as we’ve seen, many convoys have been attacked. World Central Kitchen convoys have been attacked in the past. This is not something that is brand new. It’s just that this is the most shocking instance of, as we know now, hundreds, nearly 200 humanitarian workers have been killed and many more of their family members. So, this is not the only attack on humanitarian aid workers, but it is certainly one of the most brazen and with the largest number of casualties, fatalities with an organization that is highly visible and is highly respected for its laser focus on delivering as many dignified meals to people who are hungry as quickly and effectively as they can. And they’re good at their job and they’re not political. And this shouldn’t happen.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Related: The view over Gaza onboard a Jordanian aid plane

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