World Central Kitchen to resume operations in Gaza after deadly strike on aid convoy

Organization reiterates call for international investigation into April 1 attack that killed 7 of its workers; IDF says aid deliveries to scale up even more in the coming days

Illustrative: Aid from World Central Kitchen boat off the coast of Gaza on March 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Aid from World Central Kitchen boat off the coast of Gaza on March 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The World Central Kitchen announced Sunday that it would resume operations in Gaza the following day, after suspending its humanitarian work in the Strip when an Israeli strike earlier this month killed seven of its workers.

The military meanwhile said aid deliveries to Gaza will further increase in the coming days, as Israel geared up for an offensive in the southern city of Rafah and faced international pressure over the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian enclave.

According to WCK, a Palestinian team will be delivering the food, including to the northern part of the Strip, which aid organizations have said is especially difficult to access.

“We are restarting our operation with the same energy, dignity and focus on feeding as many people as possible,” said WCK Chief Executive Officer Erin Gore. “To date, we have distributed more than 43 million meals, and we are eager to deliver millions more. Food is a universal right, and our work in Palestine has been the most life-saving mission in our 14-year organizational history. We will continue to get as much food into Gaza, including northern Gaza, as possible — by land, air or sea.”

The WCK said it had 276 trucks ready to enter through the Rafah Crossing, and will also send trucks from Jordan. WCK was still looking to use the maritime corridor from Cyprus and as well as the Ashdod Port.

On April 1, the Israel Defense Forces shot three guided missiles at vehicles in an aid convoy that were bearing WCK insignia. An IDF investigation found that the officer in charge ordered the strike because he suspected an armed Hamas operative was in tow, which turned out to be false. Seven aid workers perished in the attack: three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian.

Amid international outrage, Israel acknowledged the “tragic” and “unintentional” incident, which it promised to investigate “at the highest levels.” The IDF subsequently said its inquiries had found serious errors and breaches of procedure, dismissing two senior officers and reprimanding senior commanders.

Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, April 2, 2024. (Ismael Abu Dayyah/AP)

Israel has been working to convince WCK to return to Gaza since the attack. Until the deadly incident, WCK accounted for 62 percent of all international NGO aid in Gaza, according to the organization.

The WCK also announced Sunday that it was opening a third kitchen in Gaza, in the coastal Mawasi area. It will be called “Damian’s Kitchen” after Polish aid worker Damian Soból killed on April 1. WCK has two other high-production kitchens, one in Rafah and Deir al-Balah.

The organization reiterated its call for an impartial and international investigation into the IDF attack.

“We have been forced to make a decision: Stop feeding altogether during one of the worst hunger crises ever, ending our operation that accounted for 62% of all International NGO aid,” said Gore, “or keep feeding knowing that aid, aid workers and civilians are being intimidated and killed.”

“Ultimately, we decided we must keep feeding, continuing our mission of showing up to provide food to people during the toughest of times.”

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip wait near the Rafah border crossing on the Egyptian side on March 23, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

The WCK announcement came as IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the amount of aid entering Gaza “has significantly increased” in recent weeks and “will continue to scale up even more” in the coming days.

“Over the last few weeks, the amount of humanitarian aid going into Gaza has significantly increased. In the coming days, the amount of aid going into Gaza will continue to scale up even more. Food, water, medical supplies, shelter equipment, and other aid. More of it is going into Gaza than ever before,” he said in an English-language video statement.

“This increase in aid is a result of increased effort, among them: Opening the Israeli port of Ashdod; and a new crossing that was opened into northern Gaza; and increasing the amount of aid coming from Jordan — through Israel — entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom humanitarian aid crossing. We also facilitated the opening of dozens of bakeries in the north and south of Gaza, together with the World Food Program,” Hagari continued.

He noted the IDF was working with the US military to build a temporary maritime pier off Gaza, which he said “will provide a ship-to-shore distribution system that will further increase the flow of humanitarian aid.”

Hagari said that “as part of the efforts to get more aid into Gaza, we are also expanding the designated humanitarian zones in Gaza, where the aid will be reaching and streamlining the distribution efforts, together with international aid organizations, for increased efficiency.”

“Getting aid to the people of Gaza is a top priority,” Hagari said, adding that it was “because our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza.”

“We seek to help alleviate the suffering of the civilians in Gaza that has resulted from the war that Hamas started on October 7, when it massacred and kidnapped Israelis,” he said.

This graphic aired by the IDF on April 28, 2024, shows plans to expand the “humanitarian zone” in the Gaza Strip. The image on the left shows the current zone in the al-Mawasi area on the coast. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The Israel Defense Forces operates according to international law. We make vast efforts to minimize harm to the civilians that Hamas is hiding behind — because we see the suffering of civilians as a tragedy, while Hamas sees the suffering of civilians as a strategy. That’s why Hamas intentionally hides among civilians; that’s why Hamas wages war from within civilians; and that’s why Hamas has been stealing aid meant for civilians in Gaza,” Hagari says.

“We will continue to pursue Hamas everywhere in Gaza. We will continue doing everything in our power to bring back home our hostages. We will continue to fulfill our mission: Free our hostages from Hamas and free Gaza from Hamas,” he added.

Trucks, carrying humanitarian supplies for the Gaza Strip, wait in line on the Egyptian side, at the Kerem Shalom Crossing border as seen from southern Israel, April 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The war in Gaza broke out on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and take over 250 hostages.

Vowing to dismantle the terror group and return the hostages, Israel launched an unprecedented offensive in Gaza, effecting a humanitarian catastrophe in the enclave.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 34,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes some 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

The IDF has also lost 261 soldiers since it launched the ground invasion in late October, bringing the number of soldiers killed since October 7 to 604.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contribute to this report.

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