Israel must explain: World Central Kitchen deaths need scrutiny

On Monday, seven humanitarian workers with World Central Kitchen lost their lives in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza amid the war that Hamas began with its Oct. 7 onslaught of murder, rape and kidnapping. Israel and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu (who will be talking with President Biden today) must explain how this airstrike happened, and guarantee that avoiding civilian deaths will be a priority in weighing military actions.

War is hell, and war is, to some extent, chaos. It is not possible to fight a war with a 100% certainty that no errors will be committed in the fog of conflict. Yet that doesn’t mean accepting an all-or-nothing approach — that either a military maintains a perfect record of avoiding collateral damage, an all-but-impossible standard, or it is free to let loose without much care for the people caught in the crossfire.


There is a wide gulf in between, and moral armed forces, as the Israel Defense Forces hold themselves to be, are expected to hew as closely as they can to the minimization of wanton destruction.

The distressingly high level of civilian Palestinian casualties is due to Hamas’ diabolical embedding of their terrorist fighters among the populace. The intention is to make Israel’s war-fighting very difficult. And that is the challenge that the IDF must meet: to attack and destroy Hamas while sparing the bystanders, a challenge it is not always meeting.

Biden, a longtime supporter of Israel, is in agreement, saying flatly that “this is not a stand-alone incident,” and that the killing of aid workers “is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult… Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians.”

The IDF’s contention that this was an error borne out of misidentification and miscommunication is troubling as World Central Kitchen has been successfully sharing their coordinates directly with the military for weeks to avoid being targeted. In the aftermath, IDF sources told Haaretz that this could be because commanders on the ground are making their own decisions outside the chain of command.

It is incumbent on Israel to find the cause and have some accountability for the personnel at fault here for hitting an aid convoy. While correct that the cause of the whole war lays with Hamas’ aggression, that cannot be a shield against the grave responsibilities that come with being a modern and very well-equipped military operating in a civilian-dense area.

Rather than seeing accountability as a detriment to the war effort, Netanyahu and the military brass should see it as a boon. The impression that the leadership is not in control of troop’s operations and decision-making on the ground will only further undermine the war effort and global credibility, as will the ever-increasing risk of humanitarian disaster from famine in Gaza. World Central Kitchen was one of the aid organizations most active in staving off starvation; with it and several other groups suspending operations, that catastrophe draws closer.

For the aid to flow once more, aid groups have to trust that their people will be reasonably safer, or at the very least won’t be targeted in military operations. Only a full accounting of this tragedy and the implementation of safeguards against another will rebuild this trust.

—New York Daily News/TNS

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