Israeli military fires 2 officers as probe blames World Central Kitchen deaths on “mistaken identification”

Israeli military fires 2 officers as probe blames World Central Kitchen deaths on “mistaken identification”


The Israeli military announced Friday that it dismissed two officers and reprimanded three others for their roles in drone strikes in Gaza that killed seven aid workers on a food-delivery mission, saying they had mishandled critical information and violated the army’s rules of engagement.

An investigation carried out by a retired Israel Defense Forces general into the Monday killings marked an embarrassing admission by Israel, which faces growing accusations from key allies, including the U.S., of not doing enough to protect Gaza’s civilians from its war with Hamas.

The findings are likely to renew skepticism over the Israeli military’s decision-making. Palestinians, aid groups and human rights organizations have repeatedly accused Israeli forces of firing recklessly at civilians throughout the conflict — a charge Israel denies.

IDF says attack on WCK “should not have occurred”

“It’s a tragedy,” the military’s spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, told reporters of the strikes on the World Central Kitchen team. “It’s a serious event that we are responsible for and it shouldn’t have happened and we will make sure that it won’t happen again.”

“The incident should not have occurred,” the IDF said in a statement summarizing retired general Yoav Har-Even’s seven-page findings. “Those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives and not WCK employees. 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.”

Parents of slain World Central Kitchen aid worker speak out


Har-Even’s investigation was carried out with remarkable expedience and explained in greater detail than is typically provided by the IDF about its actions. The findings were announced within hours of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having a phone call with President Biden, who told his Israeli counterpart the strike on the WCK team was “unacceptable” and warned that U.S. policy on the conflict going forward would depend on Israel’s actions to relieve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, according to the White House.

It was unclear whether the punishments and the apology would calm an international outcry over the deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers or reassure international aid groups that it was safe to resume operations in Gaza, where nearly a third of the population is on the brink of starvation.

World Central Kitchen calls for “systemic change”

WCK said in a statement on Friday that while Israel had taken “important steps forward” based on its findings, “it is also clear from their preliminary investigation that the IDF has deployed deadly force without regard to its own protocols, chain of command and rules of engagement.”

“Without systemic change, there will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families,” the charity said. “The root cause of the unjustified rocket fire on our convoy is the severe lack of food in Gaza. Israel needs to dramatically increase the volume of food and medicine traveling by land if it is serious about supporting humanitarian aid.”

Chef José Andrés accuses Israel of targeting World Central Kitchen aid workers


WCK also called for another investigation into the incident, not carried out by the Israeli military.

“We demand the creation of an independent commission to investigate the killings of our WCK colleagues,” the organization said in its statement. “The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza.”

Details of the Israeli investigation’s findings

According to what spokespeople said were the Israeli army’s rules, targets must be visually identified as threats for multiple reasons before they can be hit. But the investigation determined that a colonel had authorized the series of deadly drone strikes on the convoy based on one major’s observation — from grainy drone-camera video — that someone in the convoy was armed. That observation turned out to be untrue, military officials said.

The army said the colonel and the major were dismissed, while three other officers were reprimanded. It said the results of its investigation were turned over to the military’s advocate general, who will decide whether the officers or anyone else involved in the killings should receive further punishment or be prosecuted.

The killings were condemned by Israel’s closest allies and renewed criticism of Israel’s conduct in the nearly 6-month-old war with Hamas.

The aid workers were three British citizens, a Polish citizen, an Australian and a Canadian American dual citizen, all of whom worked for WCK, the international charity founded by celebrity Spanish-American chef José Andrés. Their Palestinian driver also was killed.

Western employees of international aid organization killed in Israeli attack on Gaza
A view of a damaged vehicle that was carrying aid workers with the World Central Kitchen charity and their Palestinian driver who were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, April 1, 2024, in an airstrike conducted by Israel.

Yasser Qudaih/Anadolu/Getty

The Israeli investigation found two major areas of wrongdoing.

It faulted officers for failing to read messages alerting troops that cars, not aid trucks, would carry workers from the charity away from the warehouse where aid was distributed. As a result, the cars that were targeted were misidentified as transporting militants. 

The army said the order was given after one of the passengers inside a car was identified as a gunman. It said troops became suspicious because a gunman had been seen on the roof of one of the delivery trucks on the way to the warehouse. The army showed reporters video of the gunman firing his weapon while riding atop one of the trucks.

After the aid was dropped off at a warehouse, an officer believed he had spotted a gunman in one of the cars. The passenger, it turned out, was not carrying a weapon — the military said it’s possible he was just carrying a bag.

The army said it initially hit one car. As people scrambled away into a second car, it hit that vehicle as well. It did the same thing when survivors scrambled into a third car. Army officials claimed that drone operators could not see that the cars were marked with the words “World Central Kitchen” because it was nighttime.

Israel vows to do “utmost to limit civilian casualties”

The investigation’s findings confirm, in large part, the account of the attack given earlier this week by Andres himself, who said his team’s vehicles had been “targeted systematically, car by car.”

Despite the deaths of the aid workers, however, a spokesperson for Israel’s government insisted Thursday that his country was setting a “new gold standard” in preventing civilian casualties.

“All I can say at the moment is to offer my apologies and say that we share in the grief,” Avi Hyman told CBS News correspondent Holly Williams. “Our fight is with Hamas, not the people of Gaza, and we will do our utmost to limit civilian casualties on both sides.”

But the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said Thursday that it did not accept Israel’s insistence that the incident was simply a mistake, claiming it was part of a pattern of deliberate attacks on aid workers.

“Humanitarian workers are protected. No ifs, no buts. We do not accept the narrative of regrettable incidents,” the group said.

The Israeli investigation’s findings were to be handed over to military prosecutors, to determine whether a criminal investigation was warranted.


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