Israeli killing of aid workers condemned by international community

2024-04-03 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Australia joined the widespread international slashing of Israel following the deaths of foreign aid workers in a targeted Israeli air strike in Gaza on Monday.

The Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi, said in a video statement on Wednesday that he had been presented with preliminary findings from an inquiry into the incident.

"The strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers," he said. "It was a mistake that followed a misidentification — at night, during a war, in very complex conditions. It shouldn't have happened."

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a full investigation into the air strike saying "while tragic, these things happen in war".

One of those killed was Australian aid worker Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom, described by friends and family as a "caring, selfless human being".

Melbourne-born Frankcom was killed in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, while working with the World Central Kitchen (WCK) charity on Monday, along with six other international aid workers and their Palestinian driver.

The others were British, Polish, Irish, a dual US-Canadian citizen and Palestinians.

Britain, Australia, Poland, the United States and Canada have all condemned the attack and have demanded "answers" from Israel.

In a telephone called with Netanyahu on Wednesday, Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed Australia's outrage over the attack on innocent aid workers.

Australia's Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, speaking on ABC radio Tuesday said: "War time does not obviate responsibility for observing international law including aid workers."

Footage posted to social media and photographs from international agencies on Tuesday showed the bodies of the dead aid workers at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah. They were still wearing protective gear with the WCF logo, and their passports could also be clearly seen.

"We are deeply mourning the news that our brave and beloved Zomi has been killed doing the work she loves delivering food to the people of Gaza. She was a kind, selfless and outstanding human being that has travelled the world helping others in their time of need," Frankcom's family said in a statement on Tuesday.

"She will leave behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love for all those in her orbit."

"We are still reeling from the shock, and we humbly request privacy during this difficult time".

The Australian government summoned the Israeli ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon, to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to give an explanation but was told "he is sick".

Maimon was appointed last year following an extensive career in the Israel Défense Force and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

DFAT said in a Tuesday statement that Australia has been "very clear that we expect humanitarian workers in Gaza to have safe and unimpeded access to do their lifesaving work".

Frankcom had worked at the United States-based aid organisation World Central Kitchen since 2019, most recently serving as senior manager for Asia operations in Bangkok, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Celebrity chef and WCK founder Jose Andres said in a social media post "we are heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family".

"Despite coordinating movements with the [Israeli army], the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route," WCK said in a statement.

Al Jazeera correspondent, Hind Khoudary, reporting from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir el-Balah, where the deceased's remains were taken, said she had spoken with the aid workers earlier in the day.

"Everyone in the hospital is amazed and astonished, they don't believe that the Israeli forces targeted internationals," Khoudary said.

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the peak body for Australian non-government organisations involved in international development and humanitarian action, described the killing of aid workers delivering food to civilians in northern Gaza as "tragic".

ACFID chief executive Marc Purcell said in a statement on Tuesday: "The Australian government seeks to uphold the international rule of law. The laws of war protecting humanitarian workers and civilians are being flagrantly disregarded by the Israeli Government and Defence Forces."

"Humanitarian workers in conflict zones should be ensured safety by combatants to carry out lifesaving responses. Time and time again during this conflict we have seen Israeli forces demonstrate disregard for the safety of humanitarian workers with tragic results, with at least 196 aid workers killed to date."

"Not only are Israeli military forces acting recklessly, they have, in fact, been using the denial of food as a weapon of war."

"We call on the Australian Government to urge the Israeli Government to cease attacks on aid convoys and to allow for the safe land passage of humanitarian assistance. Further, Australia should protest in the strongest possible terms the starvation of civilians. Starving civilians is a breach of the laws of war, international law and common decency," he said.

"The Israeli Defence Force is blocking aid from entry into northern Gaza which means hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of starving to death. In the south, humanitarian agencies are under enormous strain because of airstrikes," he added.


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