Food aid charity demands independent investigation of Israeli strikes

 Food aid charity demands independent investigation of Israeli strikes


Food aid charity demands independent investigation of Israeli strikes

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NEW YORK (AP) - World Central Kitchen demanded an independent investigation into the Israeli strikes that killed seven of its staff in Gaza, as Israel faced growing isolation Wednesday over the deaths of six foreign aid workers and a Palestinian driver helping deliver desperately needed food to isolated and starving residents.

Wednesday night, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart that the strikes, which Israel says targeted the aid workers in error, strengthened U.S. concerns about Israel’s plans to expand its ground offensive and said that Israel must do more to protect the lives of civilians and aid workers in Gaza.

Israel’s war in Gaza has killed nearly 33,000 Palestinians, the territory’s Health Ministry says. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead. The United Nations says much of the population in northern Gaza is on the brink of starvation.

The war began on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 people hostage.


— World Central Kitchen is saving lives with food but paying a price in blood.

— Family and friends recall ‘brave’ and ‘selfless’ aid workers killed in Israeli airstrikes.

— Killing of aid workers adds to pressure on the U.K. government to halt arms sales to Israel.

— Yemen’s Houthis may be running low on weapons stocks as attacks on ships slow, U.S. commander says.

— Muslim American leaders reject chance to break bread with Biden as anger over Gaza festers.

— Palestinians seek full U.N. membership again, but the U.S. is almost certain to block it for a second time.

— Find more AP coverage at

Here’s the latest:

CAIRO — The United States’ military says its forces shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile and two aerial drones launched by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

U.S. Central Command said Thursday that the target of the attack was the USS Gravely destroyer, which is patrolling the Red Sea. The military said it destroyed a mobile surface-to-air missile system in Houthi-held territory in response to the attack early Wednesday.

The Houthis have repeatedly targeted international shipping and U.S. forces in the Red Sea in recent months in what they portray as a blockade of Israel in response to the war in Gaza. They have attacked several ships with no known connection to Israel.

The U.S. and its allies have responded with strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen.

The latest confrontation came as tensions are high across the Middle East following an apparent Israeli airstrike in Syria’s capital, Damascus, that destroyed the Iranian Consulate and killed two Iranian generals. Iran has vowed to respond to the attack.

WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s leaders have called on Israel to pay compensation to the family of the Polish aid worker Damian Soból, who was killed along with six other workers of the World Central Kitchen charity in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Monday.

President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk said it was a matter of responsibility and decency to pay compensation to the family of Soból, 35, who was bringing aid to the needy. They also demanded from Israel a detailed explanation of what happened and why.

“I have no doubt at all that Israel should pay compensation to the family of our killed citizen. It should be an appropriate compensation,” Duda said. “I hope such a compensation will be paid in a just and honest way.”

Tusk said it was a “senseless and unnecessary death” and that Israel should apologize and provide detailed information about the circumstances of the deaths.

Israel has taken responsibility for the airstrike, but has argued it was a mistake. However, charity organizations in Poland insist that humanitarian convoys are clearly marked and are also given security guarantees when operating in war zones.

TEL AVIV — Israel’s police and internal security agency say they have uncovered a plot by Palestinians to assassinate an Israeli government minister.

They said Thursday that 14 Palestinians were arrested in connection with the alleged plot to assassinate National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. They said the suspects also planned to attack Israel’s main airport, a sports stadium, army bases and government buildings.

The statements did not provide any evidence, and said the plot was in its early stages.

It said three of the suspects, from east Jerusalem, had started learning how to make explosives. It said the others, from southern Israel and the occupied West Bank, had been in contact with Hamas in Gaza.

Ben Gvir, a far-right government minister, is known for his extreme rhetoric and positions toward the Palestinians.

The war in Gaza has stoked tensions across Israel and the occupied West Bank. More than 450 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the start of the war, mostly during near-nightly Israeli military raids and violent protests.

There have also been a series of stabbing, ramming and other attacks against Israelis, especially after Hamas called on Palestinians to rise up during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last month and continues until mid-April.

JERUSALEM — Human Rights Watch says an Israeli attack on a Gaza apartment building in October killed at least 106 civilians, including 54 children.

The New York-based rights group says its investigation into the attack, published Thursday, found no evidence of any military target, making it a war crime.

The attack was one of the deadliest since the start of the war nearly six months ago.

Human Rights Watch says four separate strikes collapsed the Engineer’s Building in central Gaza, which was housing some 350 people, around a third of whom had fled their homes elsewhere in the territory.

Those killed included children playing soccer outside and residents charging phones in the first-floor grocery store.

The rights group says it interviewed 16 people, including relatives of those killed in the Oct. 31 attack, and analyzed satellite imagery, 35 photographs and 45 videos of the aftermath. It was unable to visit the site because Israel heavily restricts access to Gaza.

Witnesses told the rights group there was no warning ahead of the attack. Human Rights Watch says Israeli authorities have not published any information about the purported target and did not respond to its own requests for information.

The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas. But the military rarely comments on individual strikes that kill dozens of people every day, including women and children.

Israel has faced mounting international criticism over its wartime conduct after its strikes killed seven aid workers earlier this week.

LONDON — More than 600 British jurists, including three retired judges from the U.K. Supreme Court, are calling on the government to suspend arms sales to Israel.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, they said the U.K. could be complicit in “grave breaches of international law” if it continues to ship weapons.

Signatories, including former Supreme Court President Brenda Hale, said Britain is legally obliged to heed the International Court of Justice’s conclusion that there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza.

The letter said the “sale of weapons and weapons systems to Israel … falls significantly short of your government’s obligations under international law.”

Britain is a staunch ally of Israel, but relations have been tested by the mounting death toll of the almost six-month war. Calls for a halt to arms sales have grown since Israel killed seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen, three of them British.

The U.K.’s main opposition parties have all said the Conservative government should halt weapons sales to Israel if the country has broken international law in Gaza.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war has passed 33,000, Gaza’s Health Ministry says.

The ministry said Thursday that 33,037 people have been killed and 75,668 wounded since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack into Israel. Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people that day, mostly civilians, and took another 250 hostage.

The ministry says hospitals in Gaza received 62 bodies and 91 wounded people in the last 24 hours.

The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children have made up around two-thirds of those killed. The ministry is part of the Hamas-run government. It maintains detailed records, and its counts from previous wars have largely matched those of independent experts and the United Nations.

Apparent Israeli airstrikes hit two houses in the southern Gaza city of Rafah late Wednesday, killing three children, two women and an unidentified individual, according to hospital records.

The children were 16, 1 and 2 years old. An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies at a local hospital.

Israel regularly carries out strikes in Rafah and has threatened a full-scale ground invasion of the city, which it says is the last major Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

Rafah is packed with some 1.4 million Palestinians — over half of Gaza’s population — most of whom have fled fighting elsewhere. The city on the border with Egypt is also a main gateway for the entry of humanitarian aid.

NICOSIA, Cyprus — World Central Kitchen is calling for an independent investigation into the Israeli strikes that killed seven of its aid workers in Gaza.

In a statement issued Thursday, the international food charity says it has asked Australia, Canada, Poland, the United States and the United Kingdom, whose citizens were killed, to join them in demanding “an independent, third-party investigation into these attacks.”

“We asked the Israeli government to immediately preserve all documents, communications, video and/or audio recordings, and any other materials potentially relevant to the April 1 strikes,” the statement said.

Israel says it carried out the strikes by mistake and that it has launched its own investigation into the attack.

The military carried out multiple strikes on a convoy of three cars, at least one of which was clearly marked with the charity’s logo. World Central Kitchen says it coordinated the team’s movements with the army, which was “aware of their itinerary, route and humanitarian mission.”

The workers were delivering aid that had arrived by sea in a recently opened maritime corridor aimed at getting food to hundreds of thousands of starving Palestinians in northern Gaza, which has been largely isolated by Israeli forces for months.

The attack interrupted those efforts, as World Central Kitchen and other charities suspended operations over the deteriorating security situation. The ships returned to Cyprus with an estimated 240 tons of undelivered humanitarian aid.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. defense secretary said the Israeli strikes that killed seven aid workers this week “reinforce” concerns about Israel’s plans to expand its ground offensive to the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Lloyd Austin “expressed his outrage” over the strikes in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, late Wednesday, according to a Pentagon readout of the call.

Austin “stressed the need to immediately take concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza after repeated coordination failures with foreign aid groups.” He also reiterated U.S. calls for an independent investigation into Monday’s deadly strikes.

“This tragedy reinforced the expressed concern over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, specifically focusing on the need to ensure the evacuation of Palestinian civilians and the flow of humanitarian aid,” Austin said.

Israel has said the multiple strikes on the aid workers’ convoy was a mistake and that it has launched an independent investigation.

The U.S. has provided crucial military aid and diplomatic support for Israel’s nearly six-month offensive, which was launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

Israel has vowed to expand ground operations to Rafah, where some 1.4 million Palestinians — over half of Gaza’s population — have sought refuge. Rafah is also a key gateway for the delivery of humanitarian aid. Israel says it is the last major stronghold for thousands of Hamas fighters.

The U.S. has said a full-scale invasion of Rafah would be a mistake, urging Israel to instead carry out more precise operations focused on Hamas.

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations children’s agency says one-third of the children under age 2 in northern Gaza were suffering from acute malnutrition in March, adding that the figure “has more than doubled in the last two months.”

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that “dozens of children in the northern Gaza Strip have reportedly died from malnutrition and dehydration in recent weeks, and half the population is facing catastrophic food insecurity.”

Chaiban said he saw “a staggering decline in the conditions of children” during his second visit to Gaza in January.

He pointed to widespread destruction of infrastructure, “a quasi-blockade” on the north, repeated denials or delays in getting Israeli approval for humanitarian convoys, and fuel shortages and electricity and telecommunications blackouts which have been “devastating for children.”

Virginia Gamba, the U.N. special envoy for children in conflict, told the council that the latest U.N. report issued last year verified 3,941 cases where youngsters were prevented from getting food and other assistance. The highest figures, she said, were in Gaza and the West Bank, Yemen, Afghanistan and Mali.

Gamba said data gathered for the next report in June “shows we are on target to witness a shocking increase of the incidents of the denial of humanitarian access globally.” In addition to the Palestinian territories, she pointed to Haiti where there are “high levels of arbitrary impediments and/or outright denial of humanitarian access to children.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said doctors in Gaza have reported being horrified at treating children suffering from war wounds and watching children die from acute malnutrition.

She said that “humanitarian assistance is desperately needed now, and it must be facilitated to mitigate the impact of an impending famine.”

Thomas-Greenfield said that food and other aid is also urgently needed for children in Congo, Afghanistan, Sudan and Africa’s Sahel region and for Rohingya Muslim youngsters in Myanmar.