Israel fires two officers following deadly drone strikes on aid workers in Gaza – National

The Israeli military said Friday it had fired two officers and reprimanded three others for their role in drone strikes in Gaza that killed seven aid workers during a food delivery mission, saying they had mishandled information criticism and violated the army’s rules of engagement.

The findings of a retired general’s investigation into Monday’s killings constitute an embarrassing admission by Israel, which faces growing accusations from its main allies, including the United States, for not doing enough to protect civilians in Gaza from the conflict with Hamas.

The findings are likely to reignite skepticism about the Israeli military’s decision-making. Palestinians, humanitarian groups and human rights organizations have repeatedly accused Israeli forces of recklessly shooting civilians throughout the conflict – an accusation Israel denies.

“It’s a tragedy,” army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters. “This is a serious event for which we are responsible and it should not have happened and we will ensure that it does not happen again.”

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As pressure mounted on Israel to hold itself accountable, Hagari and other officials shared with reporters Thursday evening the results of the unusually rapid and detailed military investigation.

It was unclear whether the sanctions and apology would calm the international outcry over the deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers or reassure international humanitarian groups that it was possible to safely resume operations in Gaza, where almost a third of the population is on the verge of extinction. famine.

Under Israeli military rules, according to spokesmen, targets must be visually identified as threats for multiple reasons before they can be hit. But the investigation determined that a colonel authorized the series of deadly drone strikes on the convoy based on a major’s observation – from grainy footage from a drone camera – that someone ‘one in the convoy was armed. That observation turned out to be false, military officials said.

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The army said the colonel and major were fired, while three other officers were reprimanded. The results of his investigation have been forwarded to the army attorney general, who will decide whether the officers or anyone else involved in the killings should be further punished or prosecuted.

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

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

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The investigation revealed two main areas of wrongdoing.

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He blamed agents for failing to read messages alerting troops that cars, not aid trucks, would be transporting association workers away from the warehouse where aid was being distributed. As a result, the targeted cars were misidentified as carrying activists.

The Army also blamed the major who identified the strike target and the colonel who approved the strike for acting with insufficient information.

The military said the order was given after one of the passengers inside a car was identified as a shooter. He said troops had become suspicious because an armed man was seen on the roof of one of the delivery trucks en route to the warehouse. The military showed journalists footage of the gunman firing his weapon while atop one of the trucks.

Click to play video: “Remembering the 7 World Central Kitchen employees killed by Israel in Gaza”

Remembering the 7 World Central Kitchen employees killed by Israel in Gaza

After the aide was dropped off at a warehouse, an officer thought he spotted an armed man in one of the cars. It turned out the passenger was not carrying a weapon. The military said it was possible he was simply carrying a bag.

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The Army said it initially hit a car. As people rushed into a second car, it also hit that vehicle. The same thing happened when the survivors rushed into a third car. Army officials said drone operators couldn’t see that the cars had the words “World Central Kitchen” on them because it was dark.

The military could not say exactly where communication about the convoy plans had broken down.

The military refused to answer questions about whether similar violations of the rules of engagement had taken place during the conflict – in which Palestinians, aid workers and international rights groups have accused on several occasions the army recklessly struck civilians.

The investigation was led by Yoav Har-Even, a retired general.

The seven people killed were distributing food that had been brought into Gaza via a newly established sea corridor. World Central Kitchen said it coordinated its movements with the military and that the vehicles bore the organization’s logo.

“It was a direct attack against clearly identified vehicles whose movements were known” to the Israeli army, Andrés said on Wednesday.

More than 220 aid workers have been killed in the conflict, according to the UN.

“Let’s be very clear. It’s tragic, but it’s not an anomaly,” Scott Paul of the humanitarian group Oxfam said Thursday at a press briefing with other aid organizations ahead of the release of the results of the Israeli investigation. “The killing of aid workers in Gaza is systemic. »

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