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Blinken calls slain Gaza aid workers ‘heroes’ and demands ‘impartial’ probe into Israel’s aid convoy strike

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for Israel to conduct an “impartial” investigation into how the Israeli Defence Forces came to conduct drone strikes on a marked aid convoy belonging to the World Central Kitchen in Gaza, killing seven of the nonprofit’s employees.

Speaking in Paris on Tuesday, Mr Blinken called the slain aid workers “heroes” who represent “the best of what humanity has to offer,” and noted that a “record number” of humanitarian workers have been killed in Israel’s six-month-old war against Hamas.

“They run into the fire, not away from it … they have to be protected,” he said. “We shouldn’t have a situation where people who are simply trying to help their fellow human beings are themselves at grave risk”.

The top US diplomat added that US officials have “spoken directly” with Israeli government officials about the strikes and have “urged” Israel to run “a swift, a thorough, and impartial investigation to understand exactly what happened”.

“As we have throughout this conflict, we’ve impressed upon the Israelis the absolute imperative of doing more to protect innocent civilian lives … as well as to get more humanitarian assistance to more people more effectively,” he said.

Mr Blinken’s statement comes less than a day after the Israeli strike on the workers, who included one dual American-Canadian citizen, three UK citizens, one Australian citizen and a Polish citizen, as well as a Palestinian driver.

(AP)

They were traveling along Gaza’s coastal road in Deir Balah, central Gaza, on Monday night when their three-vehicle convoy came under fire from Israeli drones. The aid workers reportedly travelled in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft-skin vehicle.

The convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid taken to Gaza on the maritime route, WCK said.

After the drone strike, the charity, which was founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres, announced that it would be halting operations in Gaza for the time being.

“World Central Kitchen is pausing our operations immediately in the region. We will be making decisions about the future of our work soon,” a statement from the charity read.

The US Secretary of State’s call for a probe into the strike follows that of Lord David Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary, who has said Israel must “immediately investigate” and has demanded that such a probe produce “a full, transparent explanation of what happened”.

In addition, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the Biden administration is “heartbroken and deeply troubled by the strike” and urging Israel to “swiftly investigate what happened”.

An Israel Defence Forces spokesperson said the incident “will be investigated in the Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism” which they described as “an independent, professional, and expert body”.

“As a professional military committed to international law, we are committed to examining our operations thoroughly and transparently,” the spokesperson said.


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