Poland ups pressure on Israel after losing a citizen in bombing of Gaza aid workers

PM Tusk says ties tested after Netanyahu said such incidents ‘happen in war’; Israeli ambassador calls extremist Poles antisemites for accusing Israel of murder

The victims of the IDF strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy in Gaza (Clockwise from top right):
Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, Damian Soból, Jacob Flickinger, James Kirby, James (Jim) Henderson and John Chapman. (World Central Kitchen/X)
The victims of the IDF strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy in Gaza (Clockwise from top right): Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, Damian Soból, Jacob Flickinger, James Kirby, James (Jim) Henderson and John Chapman. (World Central Kitchen/X)

Countries of the seven aid workers killed by an Israeli strike in Gaza ratcheted up their criticism against Israel on Wednesday and demanded an investigation into the incident.

The World Central Kitchen aid group on Tuesday named those killed in the incident the day before as Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, a Palestinian; Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43, an Australian; John Chapman, 57, James (Jim) Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, Britons; Damian Sobol, 35, a Pole; and US-Canadian Jacob Flickinger, 33.

Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Wednesday that the strike, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction, sparked “understandable anger” and strained relations between the two countries.

Netanyahu had said on Tuesday that the airstrike was tragic and unintended, adding, “This happens in war,” while Israel’s Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne said in a post on social media platform X that the “extreme right and left” in Poland were accusing Israel of intentional murder, adding that “antisemites will always remain antisemites.”

Tusk wrote on X: “Mr. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mr. Ambassador Livne, the vast majority of Poles showed full solidarity with Israel after the Hamas attack (on October 7).

“Today you are putting this solidarity to a really hard test. The tragic attack on volunteers and your (Netanyahu’s) reaction arouse understandable anger.”

United Nations staff members inspect the remains of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. (AFP)

Netanyahu had also said Israel was conducting a thorough inquiry and would do everything to avoid a recurrence of the incident.

In a post on X following Tusk’s comments, Livne said Israel had “repeatedly expressed our deep regret, sorrow, and condolences over the tragic loss of life of @WCKitchen workers.”

In this undated photo, Damian Sobol poses for a selfie with Marta Wilczynska, head of the Free Place Foundation. (Free Place Foundation’s Facebook via AP)

Prosecutors in the Polish city of Przemysl, which identified Damian Sobol, told the state news agency PAP that they had launched an investigation into his death.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “shocked and saddened” after learning that British nationals were among those killed.

He spoke to Netanyahu and told the Israeli leader that “he was appalled by the killing of aid workers,” a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement.

The UK summoned the Israeli ambassador to express its “unequivocal condemnation.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese slammed the “completely unacceptable” attack, called it a “tragedy that should never have occurred,” and offered “sincere condolences” to the family of Australian volunteer Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, who was killed in the strike.

“She just wanted to help out through this charity. That says everything about the character of this young woman,” Albanese said.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Melanie Joly on Tuesday condemned the strike and called for a full investigation.

“I am horrified to hear reports of the IDF strike taking the lives of seven World Central Kitchen employees in Gaza yesterday, including a Canadian citizen,” said.

“We condemn these strikes and call for a full investigation. Canada expects full accountability for these killings and we will convey this to the Israeli government directly. Strikes on humanitarian personnel are absolutely unacceptable,” she said on X.

Joly’s comments are some of the harshest that Canada has directed against Israel since the start of the Gaza conflict.

US President Joe Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the deaths and charged that Israel “has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.”

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Tuesday that the strike was “a mistake that followed a misidentification — at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” and announced an independent investigation into the attack.

Footage of the aftermath showed a vehicle with the charity’s logo printed across its roof to make it identifiable from the air. A projectile had blasted a large hole through the roof. Two other vehicles in the convoy were incinerated and mangled, indicating multiple hits.

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