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Israel sacks two officers after finding grave errors in strike on aid workers

2 min

An Israeli inquiry into the killing of seven aid workers in an air strike in Gaza this week found serious errors and breaches of procedure by the military, with the result that two officers have been dismissed and senior commanders formally reprimanded.

A person looks at a vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike, Reuters/Ahmed Zakot

An Israeli inquiry into the killing of seven aid workers in an air strike in Gaza this week found serious errors and breaches of procedure by the military, with the result that two officers have been dismissed and senior commanders formally reprimanded.

The inquiry found Israeli forces mistakenly believed they were attacking Hamas gunmen when drone strikes hit the three vehicles of the World Central Kitchen aid group late on Monday night, and that standard procedures had been violated.

"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," the military said in a statement issued on Friday.

The killing of the seven aid workers, who included citizens of Britain, Australia and Poland, a dual U.S. Canadian national and a Palestinian colleague, triggered global outrage this week.

U.S. President Joe Biden threatened a shift in U.S. policy towards Israel unless it reduced harm to civilians and aid workers in Gaza, which already depended on aid before the war and has seen hunger spread far and wide since fighting began six months ago.

The military said the aid convoy the light vehicles were accompanying had stopped at a hangar where the trucks were unloaded before moving off.

An armed man had been seen on the roof of one of the trucks and, as the three light vehicles left the hangar, commanders did not identify those vehicles as belonging to WCK, the military statement said.

Yoav Har-Even, the head of the IDF Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism who led the inquiry, said forces had been unable to see the WCK logos on the roofs of the vehicles in the dark, and had mistakenly acted on the belief that they had been seized by Hamas fighters.

"The state of mind at that time was that the humanitarian mission had ended and that they were tracking Hamas vehicles with one suspected gunman, at least one suspected gunman, that they misidentified to be inside one of the three cars," he told reporters in a briefing.

"They struck that car and then they identified people running out of the car and entering a second car, which is when they decided to strike the second car. Then two people left the second car and entered the third car, which is when they struck the third car."

Those strikes were in breach of IDF standard operating procedures, he said.

The military said it had dismissed a brigade chief of staff with the rank of colonel and a brigade fire support officer with the rank of major, and formally reprimanded senior officers including the general at the head of the Southern Command.

Jose Andres, the chef who founded World Central Kitchen, said this week the seven workers had been targeted "systematically, car by car" as they moved to seek shelter when their vehicles were hit in succession.

The army pledged to address the fact that it had been unable to see the rooftop logos in the dark as part of a wider package of lessons to draw from the disaster.

By James Mackenzie and Rami Amichay

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