World Central Kitchen boss José Andrés accuses Israel of “direct attack” on Gaza aid convoy

April 4, 2024

Tel Aviv — Chef José Andrés says his World Central Kitchen charity’s team in the Gaza Strip appears to have been deliberately targeted by the Israeli military with deadly airstrikes that killed seven staffers on Monday, including a young American father. The Israel Defense Forces and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have called the airstrikes, which hit three WCK vehicles in succession, the kind of mistake that happens in war, but that explanation has been increasingly dismissed as insufficient and even disingenuous by Andrés and at least one of the slain aid worker’s home nations.

“This was not just a bad luck situation where, ‘Oops, we dropped a bomb in the wrong place,'” Andrés told the Reuters news agency, stressing that his team’s vehicles were clearly marked and “it’s very clear who we are and what we do.”

“They were targeting us in a deconflicting zone, in an area controlled by IDF. They, knowing that it was our teams moving on that road… with three cars,” he said, adding that he believed the seven aid workers killed by the strike in Gaza were targeted “systematically, car by car.”

World-Central-Kitchen-WCK-Aid-workers
Palestinians stand next to a vehicle in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, April 2, 2024, where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed in an Israeli airstrike.

YASSER QUDIHE/Middle East Images/AFP/Getty


“The airstrikes on our convoy I don’t think were an unfortunate mistake,” he told Israel’s Channel 12 in a separate interview. “It was really a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by everybody at the IDF.”

“I’ve been in Gaza,” the celebrity Spanish-American chef said, breaking down. “Some of the people that died were, were my friends, and I served with them.”

The IDF has called the attack on the three-car convoy a case of misidentification, but WCK said it had coordinated its movements in Gaza with the IDF.

Andrés said his team even tried to call the military as they came under fire — some moving from the first car after it was hit to a second vehicle, which was then also struck, and then the third, eventually leaving all seven of the aid workers dead.

Nir Barkat, Israel’s economy minister, dismissed Andrés’ comments as “nonsense” in an interview with CBS News’ partner network BBC News on Thursday, insisting that it had been a “grave mistake” and for which he said Israel was “terribly sorry.”

Barkat reiterated that, “unfortunately, in wars, friendly fire happens.”


Biden, Netanyahu to hold call after World Central Kitchen deaths

09:54

Speaking Thursday in Sydney after an Australian woman was named as one of the victims of the strikes, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for complete transparency from Israel and dismissed the suggestion that such incidents were unavoidable in conflict.

“We need to have accountability for how it has occurred, and what is not good enough is the statements that have been made, including that this is just a product of war,” Albanese said. “They have committed to a full and proper investigation. I want that to be transparent and I want those findings to be made public so that we find out how exactly this can occur.”

In Washington, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked Wednesday if Israel should be held accountable for the death of the American WCK worker Jacob Flickinger in the strikes.

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Miller said the Biden administration wanted to see Israel conduct “a full, swift and transparent investigation” and then, “if that investigation shows that accountability is appropriate, then there of course should be accountability. And we will wait to see the results of that investigation before we pass judgment on it.”

“We want to see it wrapped up as soon as possible and see them put in place any measures to prevent this from happening again in the future,” Miller added. “They need to put in place better deconfliction and better coordination to protect humanitarian workers and to protect all the civilians on the ground, and it is something that we have consistently said to them over the past few months.”

CBS News has geolocated the wreckage of the three WCK cars to positions hundreds of yards apart, and while retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Wes Bryant said it “rings true that this was likely a misidentification,” he blamed that error on “negligent callousness” by Israel’s military.

“At least one vehicle was clearly marked, and the other two were clearly part of their convoy, so not to know those critical pieces of information is pure negligence,” Bryant told CBS News. “That right there would have been one of the checks, to say, ‘Hey, wait, this is a yellow flag, or a red flag here.'”


Palestinian American doctor explains why he walked out of Biden meeting

11:59

The bodies of the six foreign team members were transported out of Gaza on Wednesday, including Flickinger’s. The 33-year-old U.S.-Canadian dual national leaves behind a baby son. The other WCK staffers killed were Palestinian, British, Polish and Australian nationals.

Meanwhile, the deadly strike on the aid convoy is already impacting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza who are contending not only with war, but hunger, because it’s not just World Central Kitchen that’s suspended its operations in Gaza. Anera, another American non-profit group that was working in the enclave, has also said it’s pausing its work there. 

President Biden was to have his first phone call with Netanyahu since the deadly strikes on the WCK convoy later on Thursday. Mr. Biden has said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the attack.

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