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Israeli Strike in Gaza Kills 7 Delivering Food in New Blow to Humanitarian Efforts

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By The Associated Press

An Israeli airstrike on aid workers delivering food in Gaza has killed at least seven people — including citizens of Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom and a U.S.-Canada dual citizen — in the latest Israeli military action to hit humanitarian efforts in the besieged Palestinian territory. world news

World Central Kitchen, the food charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, said early Tuesday it was immediately suspending operations in the region, delivering a blow to the recently opened sea route for food aid. Ships carrying food turned back from Gaza after arriving just a day earlier.

Israel says the strike was an accident and that officials are investigating.

The United States, which has provided key military and diplomatic support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, had hoped the sea route would allow more food to enter the territory. In northern Gaza, the United Nations says much of the population is on the brink of starvation.

The airstrike late Monday came hours after Israeli forces withdrew from the burnt-out ruins of Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, allowing Palestinians and journalists to survey the devastation after a two-week raid that destroyed what was once the largest medical center in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says the raid targeted Hamas militants grouped inside, a claim that could not be independently confirmed.

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 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.

Here’s the latest:

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned an attack on Iran’s consulate in Syria.

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Palestinians fleeing the Israeli ground offensive arrive in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

The strike, apparently carried out by Israel, has raised Mideast tensions even further because it struck an Iranian diplomatic mission.

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Guterres said “the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises and personnel must be respected in all cases in accordance with international law,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Tuesday.

At Iran’s request, the U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss the attack a day earlier.

Guterres called on all parties “to exercise utmost restraint and avoid further escalation,” Dujarric said.

“He cautions that any miscalculation could lead to broader conflict in an already volatile region, with devastating consequences for civilians who are already seeing unprecedented suffering in Syria, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian Territory, and the broader Middle East,” Dujarric said.

Israel has repeatedly targeted military officials from Iran, which supports militant groups fighting Israel in Gaza and along Israel’s border with Lebanon.

LONDON — The British government has summoned Israel’s ambassador for a rebuke over the deaths of three U.K. nationals in a strike on an aid group in Gaza.

The three Britons, whose names have not been released, were among seven people from World Central Kitchen killed while helping deliver food. The dead also include citizens of Australia, Poland, a U.S.-Canada dual citizen and a Palestinian.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said her country condemns the killings and expects “full accountability.” Attacks on humanitarian personnel are “absolutely unacceptable” and international humanitarian law must be respected, she said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the aid workers were killed by an “unintended strike” by Israeli forces.

U.K. Development Minister Andrew Mitchell said at the meeting with Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely he “set out the government’s unequivocal condemnation of the appalling killing” of the aid workers. He said he “requested a quick and transparent investigation, shared with the international community, and full accountability.”

Mitchell added: “We need to see an immediate humanitarian pause, to get aid in and the hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable cease-fire.”

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on X that he told his Israeli counterpart Israel Katz that the aid workers’ deaths “are completely unacceptable.”

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Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, has said the strike was “not an isolated incident,” noting that around 200 humanitarian workers have been killed since the war broke out in October.

WARSAW, Poland — A town in southeastern Poland is mourning an aid worker who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza while delivering desperately needed food aid that had arrived by sea.

The Polish aid worker has been identified by his hometown mayor as Damian Soból, from Przemyśl.

Przemyśl authorities lowered national flags to half staff on all administration buildings. Mayor Wojciech Bakun wrote on X that there were no words to describe the loss of this “fantastic young man.”

Soból’s Facebook account said he was educated at the Hotel and Catering School in Przemyśl.

He recently lived in Warsaw and his latest posts showed him traveling a lot and volunteering for the World Central Kitchen in Morocco and in Corfu, Greece, last year.

In 2022, he ran a collection of funds for the World Central Kitchen in Poland, which borders Ukraine.

“These brave people are changing the world for the better with their service and sacrifice for the others,” Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said on X.

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Palestinians search for bodies at a house hit by an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip on Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Poland’s Foreign Ministry has not identified Soból by name, but has extended condolences to his family and said it demanded detailed explanations from Israel.

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The president of Cyprus says that more aid could be shipped to Gaza from Cyprus before the end of the month as the U.S. completes construction of a floating pier off the besieged territory’s coastline.

President Nikos Christodoulides said after escorting European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on a tour of Cypriot port facilities Tuesday that the Gaza aid shipments “will continue as humanitarian needs are there” despite Monday’s airstrike that killed seven staff members from the U.S. charity World Central Kitchen.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that Israeli forces carried out the strike that killed seven aid workers in Gaza. He said officials “will do everything for this not to happen again.”

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In the last three weeks, World Central Kitchen in partnership with the United Arab Emirates has sent approximately 500 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza from the Cypriot port of Larnaca aboard a barge and two ships on two separate trips. The charity announced it’s suspending operations in Gaza following the death of its staffers.

Christodoulides said the tragic event “should not discourage us” and that the international community should “double down” on efforts to provide more assistance to Gaza’s civilian population.

He said aid workers “must have full protection” in providing assistance, citing “crystal clear” humanitarian law.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister says his country is operating everywhere to deter enemies, exacting a heavy toll against them.

Yoav Gallant made the remarks a day after a strike widely attributed to Israel killed two Iranian generals and demolished Iran’s consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus.

“We find ourselves in a multi-front war,” Gallant told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. “We operate everywhere, every day, in order to prevent our enemies from gaining strength.”

Gallant also warned Israel’s enemies that any attack against Israel would exact a heavy price.

Gallant did not refer directly to the Syria strike, and Israel has not officially confirmed that it was behind the attack.

Israel has repeatedly targeted military officials from Iran, which supports militant groups fighting Israeli troops in Gaza and along the Lebanese border. Monday’s strike in Damascus signaled an escalation because it struck an Iranian diplomatic mission.

It was not clear if Iran would respond itself, risking a dangerous confrontation with Israel and its ally the United States, or if it would continue to rely on proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — An official in Cyprus says aid ships that arrived in Gaza this week will return with some 240 tons of undelivered aid after a deadly strike killed 7 aid workers.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Theodoros Gotsis said Tuesday that around 100 tons of aid had been unloaded before the World Central Kitchen, an international charity, suspended operations after its workers were killed.

An apparent Israeli strike on a convoy in Gaza killed six foreign aid workers and their Palestinian driver late Monday.

Cyprus has played a key role in trying to establish a maritime aid corridor to Gaza from its port city of Larnaca. Those efforts suffered a major setback when World Central Kitchen halted operations after the strike.

Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos said the charity is suspending its operations in Gaza out of respect for the victims as well as to review its security protocols.

Israel has expressed sorrow over the deaths and vowed to carry out an independent investigation into what happened, while stopping short of accepting responsibility.

JERUSALEM — The families of women held captive in Gaza and two freed female hostages have given emotional testimony to an Israeli parliamentary committee focusing on their concerns for the remaining female captives.

The attendees at Tuesday’s meeting said that emerging testimony about sexual assault from freed hostages during their time in captivity was fueling concerns that other remaining captives might also be facing similar abuse.

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Yarden Gonen, whose sister Romi was taken captive on Oct. 7, criticized what she said was inaction by the Israeli government and the world to free the hostages, especially the women.

“Where are you? I don’t understand what is happening here? What are we fighting for? What is more important than this?” she said.

Before the committee meeting began, the attendees held posters of the hostages. One woman had painted red streaks on her face and wore a white sheet stained with red splotches, symbolizing blood.

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The families of the hostages are growing increasingly desperate as the war grinds on with no resolution in sight for the fate of their loved ones. Demonstrations this week intensified calling for a deal to free the captives.

Israel and Hamas are holding negotiations on the hostages in exchange for a cease-fire, but the sides remain far apart on their terms for a deal.

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — An apparent Israeli airstrike killed six international aid workers with the World Central Kitchen charity and their Palestinian driver, the aid group said Tuesday, hours after it brought a new shipload of food into northern Gaza, which has been isolated and pushed to the brink of famine by Israel’s offensive.

Footage showed the bodies of the dead at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah. Several of them wore protective gear with the charity’s logo.

The food charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés said early Tuesday that the seven killed include citizens of Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom and a U.S.-Canada dual citizen.

“This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER,” WCK spokeswoman Linda Roth said in a statement.

The source of fire late Monday could not be independently confirmed. The Israeli military said it was conducting a review “to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Tuesday his government requested an explanation from Israel of how four international aid workers including an Australian woman were killed in the apparent airstrike in Gaza.

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“This is someone who was volunteering overseas to provide aid through this charity for people who are suffering tremendous deprivation in Gaza. And this is just completely unacceptable,” Albanese told reporters.

“We want full accountability for this because this is a tragedy that should never have occurred,” Albanese added.

TOKYO — Japan says it will lift a funding freeze on a United Nations’ agency supporting Palestinian refugees that Tokyo had imposed in response to the alleged involvement of the agency’s staff in last year’s Hamas attack on Israel.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa told reporters on Tuesday that Japan will resume its $35 million contribution planned for 2023 for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA.

“The humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory (of Gaza) continues to worsen, and there is no time to waste,” Kamikawa said. “As a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Japan has a responsibility to respond to the crisis, and UNRWA’s involvement is indispensable to carry out the humanitarian support.”

The resumption comes days after UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini visited Tokyo seeking Japan’s funding resumption. In his meeting with Kamikawa, Lazzarini pledged a monitoring mechanism as part of the agency’s effort to step up transparency, neutrality and staff training.

Japan joined the United States and other countries in January in suspending funding for the U.N. agency following the alleged involvement of a dozen UNRWA staffers in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s official IRNA news agency says Tehran has sent an “important” message to the United States over an alleged Israeli airstrike at the Iranian consulate in Syria that killed two Iranian generals and five officers.

Iran relayed the message after it summoned a Swiss envoy in Tehran, the report said Tuesday. It did not provide more details about the message but said Iran claimed the U.S. had “responsibility” for the strike. Switzerland has looked out for America’s interests in Iran since the 1979 U.S. Embassy hostage crisis.

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Iran’s envoy to the U.N also asked in a letter for an “immediate” U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the strike.

President Ebrahim Raisi attended a Supreme National Security Council meeting Monday night to discuss the strike, Iranian state TV reported. It said the meeting decided on a “required” reaction to the strike but gave no details. The council is in charge of important decisions on domestic and foreign issues.

Groups of people rallied Monday night to protest the strike in several cities in Iran, state TV said Tuesday, noting that protesters demanded retaliatory action against Israel. Some burned Israeli and the U.S. flags.

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard on Monday said that seven of its members including two generals were killed in an Israeli airstrike that struck the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital.

It was the deadliest strike on an Iranian diplomatic post in decades and appeared to signify an escalation of Israel’s targeting of Iranian military officials and their allies in Syria. Such strikes have intensified since Hamas militants — who are supported by Iran — attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

In 1998, eight Iranian diplomats and staff of the country’s consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif city in Afghanistan were killed during a raid on the diplomatic site as the Taliban were battling to take control of the city.

UNITED NATIONS – The president of the U.N. Security Council says the Palestinians are expected to send a letter in the next few days outlining their request for full membership in the United Nations.

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Malta’s U.N. Ambassador Vanessa Frazier, whose country took over the rotating president on Monday, said once the letter is received it will be shared with council members and will then likely be discussed in a closed meeting.

Frazier said the council’s monthly Mideast meeting on April 18 will be at ministerial meeting, which is expected to focus on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and the council’s demand for a cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which ends on April 9 and which both parties have rejected.

The Palestinian request for full U.N. membership is also expected to be raised at the meeting, assuming the letter has been received, she said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered the Palestinian Authority’s application to become the 194th member of the United Nations to then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 23, 2011, before addressing world leaders at the General Assembly.

That bid failed because the Palestinians failed to get the required support of nine of the Security Council’s 15 members. Even if they did, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, had promised to veto any council resolution endorsing Palestinian membership.

UNITED NATIONS – France circulated a proposed new U.N. resolution that would call for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the immediate release of all hostages seized during Hamas’ surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

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France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere told reporters before presenting the draft resolution to Security Council members at a closed meeting late Monday that the draft resolution has no “time limitation,” stressing that “we want to move to a permanent cease-fire.”

The Security Council issued its first demand for a cease-fire last Monday for the remainder of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which ends April 9. The United States, Israel’s close ally, abstained, angering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who canceled a visit to Washington by a high-level delegation in their strongest public clash since the war began. Both Israel and Hamas rejected the council’s demands.

De Riviere said the draft resolution condemns Hamas’ “terrorist attacks” on Oct. 7 – something the Security Council has refused to do in two previous humanitarian resolutions and the Ramadan cease-fire resolution.

The proposed resolution also demands immediate humanitarian access throughout Gaza, where hunger is rife and starvation has already led to the deaths of children.

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