Palestinian workers transfer the bodies of the volunteers from the World Central Kitchen who were killed from an Israeli airstrike, from Al-Najjar Hospital, to Rafah crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 3, 2024. (Mohammed/Flash90)

Israeli military fires two officers in the wake of World Central Kitchen killings: ‘A serious failure’

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Israeli military fires two officers in the wake of World Central Kitchen killings: ‘A serious failure’

Palestinian workers transfer the bodies of the volunteers from the World Central Kitchen who were killed from an Israeli airstrike, from Al-Najjar Hospital, to Rafah crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 3, 2024. (Mohammed/Flash90)

(JTA) — The Israeli military chief of staff fired two officers found to be responsible for the mistakes that led to the killing of seven aid workers with the World Central Kitchen, which deepened a crisis in U.S.-Israel relations.

The sackings Friday, and the Israel Defense Forces’ publication of details that led to the strikes earlier this week, came as Israel’s government scrambled to meet U.S. demands to increase the flow of humanitarian aid as Gaza faces a worsening humanitarian crisis. On Thursday, the Biden administration said it would reassess its support for Israel in its war against Hamas unless Israel made changes.

According to the IDF’s release, officials identified two gunmen entering an aid compound on trucks. They mistakenly presumed the gunmen were in the three vehicles leaving the compound and failed to identify markings that showed the trucks belonged to WCK, the group founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres, and which has delivered relief in Israel and Gaza during the current war.

“Those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives and not WCK employees,” the release said. “The strike on the aid vehicles is a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the Standard Operating Procedures.”

Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the chief of staff, sacked the two senior officers supervising the operation and reprimanded three, including the commander of the Southern Command.

On Thursday, Biden said that he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call that Israel needed to take “specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” and that “U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”

Netanyahu, in a departure from the norm, did not publish his own readout of the call; the only statement from his office subsequent to the call was Netanyahu’s brief remarks opening a security cabinet meeting, in which he referred to the threat posed to Israel by Iran in the wake of the assassination in Damascus of a senior officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Biden and Netanyahu had discussed the threat, according to the White House.

Nevertheless, late Thursday, word leaked that the security cabinet had approved opening the Erez Crossing, into Gaza’s north, where threats of famine are especially acute. Additionally, the cabinet approved the opening of the nearby Israeli port of Ashdod to the delivery of relief, a key American demand, and to accelerate the delivery of relief from Jordan.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council welcomed the actions, but indicated that the U.S. assessment was not concluded.

“U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these and other steps, including steps to protect innocent civilians and the safety of aid workers,” Adrienne Watson said in her statement released Thursday evening.

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