Sunak ‘shocked and saddened’ as UK aid workers among seven killed in Israeli air strike

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Sunak ‘shocked and saddened’ as UK aid workers among seven killed in Israeli air strike

Downing Street says it is 'vital' Israel 'immediately investigates' the incident which killed three British aid workers in Gaza

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

A man displays blood-stained British, Polish, and Australian passports after an Israeli airstrike, in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip
A man displays blood-stained British, Polish, and Australian passports after an Israeli airstrike, in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he is “shocked and saddened” by the deaths of three British aid workers in Gaza following an apparent Israeli airstrike, saying “clearly there are questions that need to be answered”.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron also called on Israel to “immediately investigate” the deaths of the seven aid workers in total, adding that the government wanted “a full, transparent explanation of what happened”.

A Downing Street spokesperson said on Tuesday they were not aware of any plans by the UK government to meet the Israeli ambassador but said it was “vital” Israel immediately investigated the incident.

“These were people who were working to deliver life saving aid to people in desperate need,” added the prime minister’s  spokesperson. “It is essential that humanitarian workers are protected, and the prime minister’s thoughts are with the families at this very difficult time.”

Rishi Sunak at PMQs

The families would be provided with full consular support, added the spokesperson. The strike hit an aid convoy, killing seven people working with World Central Kitchen (WCK), a charity spearheading efforts to alleviate looming famine in Gaza.

They were delivering desperately needed food aid that had been brought in by sea. The WCK said Israel was behind the airstrike on their convoy south of Deir al-Balah late on Monday, and confirmed it was suspending aid deliveries as a result.

Responding to the incident Sunak said the UK’s “longstanding” view is that Israel has the “intention and the ability” to comply with international humanitarian law.

He said: “Our view is longstanding that Israel has both the intention and the ability to comply with international humanitarian law, I’ve made that very clear to prime minister Netanyahu whenever I’ve spoken to him.

“There have been too many civilian deaths in Gaza, of course we want to see an immediate humanitarian pause so that we can get the hostages out and more aid into the region.”

Former PM Cameron responded to the killing of seven WCK aid workers saying: “The news of the airstrike that killed World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers in Gaza is deeply distressing.

“These were people who were working to deliver life-saving aid to those who desperately need it.

“It is essential that humanitarian workers are protected and able to carry out their work.

“We have called on Israel to immediately investigate and provide a full, transparent explanation of what happened.”

World Central Kitchen announced that the first ship with 200 tonnes of food had departed for Gaza from Cyprus on Tuesday as part of the opening of a maritime corridor for humanitarian to the enclave. Courtesy: World Central Kitchen

Israeli military spokesperson, Rear Adm Daniel Hagari, said the incident would be investigated in the “Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism”, which his statement called an “independent, professional, and expert body”, without giving further details.

He said he had spoken to the WCK founder, chef José Andrés, and expressed his deepest condolences.

“We also express sincere sorrow to our allied nations who have been doing and continue to do so much to assist those in need,” he said in the statement.

Numerous western officials and ministers have demanded an explanation for the deaths after WCK said those killed were from the UK, Australia, Poland and Palestine, as well as a US-Canada dual citizen.

IsraAID, Israel’s leading non-governmental humanitarian aid group, issued a statement following Israel’s confirmation of the strike, saying: “We are shocked and devastated by the deaths of World Central Kitchen team members in Gaza. World Central Kitchen has been an important partner to IsraAID in humanitarian missions around the world, including providing food aid to vulnerable and evacuated people in Israel in the first weeks of this crisis.

“For humanitarian aid organisations to do their jobs effectively and deliver lifesaving support, we need safe access to crisis-affected populations, wherever they are. We call on all parties to do everything they can to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and the communities they serve.”

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