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Biden outraged after Israeli military says aid convoy attack was a mistake

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President Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the killing of seven aid workers in a strike by Israeli forces, strongly condemning the attack just hours after Israel’s top military commander acknowledged his army had made a “serious error”.

Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi made a rare admission of Israeli wrongdoing in the six-month war in the Gaza Strip, accepting responsibility for the deaths of aid workers.

“It was an error following a misidentification, at night, during the war, in very complex conditions,” he said, adding: “It should not have happened.”

General Halevi’s mea culpa marked a change in tone from the Israeli military, which throughout the war largely dismissed criticism of its conduct by arguing that it was doing what was necessary to defeat Hamas. This came as many of Israel’s closest allies expressed outrage and demanded an explanation for the attack.

The seven workers, traveling in a convoy, worked for World Central Kitchen, a charity that helped feed hungry Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

In a sharply worded statement, Mr. Biden said Israel had not done enough to protect civilians and noted that the deaths did not constitute an “isolated incident.” He said the conflict “has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of the number of aid workers killed.”

The president’s brutal criticism of an ally highlighted his growing impatience with Israel’s conduct of the war and growing tensions with its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the death toll rose Gaza has climbed, according to Gaza health authorities, beyond 32,000.

David Cameron, the British foreign secretary, called the workers’ deaths “completely unacceptable,” saying in a statement that “Israel must urgently explain how this happened and make major changes to ensure safety humanitarian workers.

The World Central Kitchen employees – a Palestinian, an Australian, a Pole, three Britons and a dual US and Canadian citizen – were traveling in clearly marked cars after leaving a warehouse in Deir al Balah, central Gaza, when their convoy came under fire. Monday evening, the organization said in a statement. The Israeli army was informed of the workers’ movements, the association said.

The bodies of the six foreigners were transported to Egypt on Wednesday, from where they were to be flown to their home country.

The killings drew condemnation from countries around the world, including those of those killed, and prompted humanitarian agencies to reassess their operations in Gaza. World Central Kitchen, founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, announced on Tuesday the suspension of its operations in Gaza.

Throughout the war, Palestinians and humanitarian organizations have accused Israel of bombing indiscriminately, with little concern for civilian casualties – claims Israel has consistently denied. The killing of aid workers from countries that supported Israel could fuel growing international anger over Israel’s conduct of the war.

General Halevi said an independent body would investigate the killings and the military would learn from the findings and share them with World Central Kitchen.

“Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the people of Gaza,” General Halevi said. “We are sorry for the unintentional harm caused to WCK members. We share from the bottom of our hearts the grief of the families, as well as the entire World Central Kitchen organization.”

The remarks by General Halevi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who said on social media that Israel “deeply regrets this tragic incident” – came within 24 hours of the strike.

In December, it took several days for the Israeli military to acknowledge that it had carried out two airstrikes in the central Gaza Strip that health officials in the enclave said had killed dozens of civilians. .

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