Israel apologizes for airstrike killing aid workers

Israel's military apologized Tuesday for an airstrike that killed seven workers with the World Central Kitchen's humanitarian aid convoy that was delivering relief supplies in Gaza.

Images of the gaping holes and shredded metal from the destroyed vehicles have sent shockwaves through the international community. The United Nations, European Union, Great Britain and France were among those who condemned Israel's actions.

The convoy of aid workers were in vehicles clearly marked with the World Central Kitchen's signs when they were bombed.

The World Central Kitchen posted the names and photos of their seven colleagues on social media.

One Palestinian driver and the six foreign workers. An Australian woman, one 36-year-old man from Poland, a U.S.-Canadian dual citizen, and three British security guards.

Co-workers gathered, grieving, at a hospital in Rafah as their colleagues' remains were brought in.

The former CEO of World Central Kitchen posted images of his Australian friend in an online article, remembering her smile and grieving the loss.

Other humanitarian aid groups operating in Gaza are also heartbroken.

"One of our employees actually was a cousin, a distant cousin of one of the victims," said Arlan Fuller of the non-profit  Project HOPE which has offices in Boston, "It really is heartbreaking and a real tragic incident that has hit all of us in the humanitarian sphere."  

Fuller said this is just the latest in a mounting death toll of humanitarian workers trying to provide desperately needed aid to the millions of Palestinians who are in danger of facing famine conditions.

"Over 200 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza since October," Fuller said. "We also lost a staff member in an airstrike on their home in early March."

That Project HOPE worker, Mohammed Madi, was also killed by an Israeli airstrike at his house in Rafah.

"We were outraged to learn of an IDF strike that killed a number of civilian humanitarian workers yesterday from the World Central Kitchen," said National Security spokesperson John Kirby.

President Biden issued a statement that had the sternest tone since the war began, condemning Israel's actions.

"Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians. Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen. Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians," President Biden said.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, it was a "tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people."

Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi of the Israel Defense Forces later apologized in a two and a half minute video. He said a new humanitarian command center was established Tuesday to better coordinate humanitarian aid efforts in Gaza.

"It was a mistake that followed a misidentification at night, during a war, in a very complex condition. It shouldn't have happened," Lt. Halevi said.

That, however, was little comfort to aid groups who suspended operations as they assessed the security situation. Many are worried now about how to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

"Only one fifth of what's actually needed is getting into Gaza itself and really remaining in the south because there is no access to the north," Fuller said.