José Andrés Condemns Israel For Killing Aid Workers: ‘Stop Using Food As A Weapon’

José Andrés, the renowned chef who founded World Central Kitchen, condemned Israeli officials after troops killed seven of his charity’s workers who were delivering food and supplies to starving Palestinians in Gaza ― leading the aid group to pause its desperately needed work in the region.

On Monday evening, Andrés confirmed that WCK lost “several of our sisters and brothers” in the Israeli attack hours earlier. The workers were traveling in a convoy of three cars ― two of which were armored vehicles branded with the charity’s logo on their roofs so Israeli forces would know not to attack them. WCK also said the convoy was driving in a so-called deconflicted zone, and that it had been coordinating movements with the Israeli military.

Despite those safety measures, Israeli troops bombed the convoy as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where WCK workers had just delivered more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid that arrived in Gaza via sea route. According to some reports and geolocation of the area, Israel launched three strikes on the cars in succession.

“I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family,” Andrés wrote of the victims on X, formerly Twitter. “These are people…angels…I served alongside in Ukraine, Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, Bahamas, Indonesia. They are not faceless…they are not nameless.”

Palestinians stand next to a vehicle in Gaza's Deir al-Balah on April 2, where employees from the World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Palestinians stand next to a vehicle in Gaza’s Deir al-Balah on April 2, where employees from the World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Graphic footage at the Al-Aqsa Hospital showed the bodies of the workers, many of whom were wearing protective gear displaying the WCK logo. The victims are from Britain, Poland, Australia, the United States, Canada and Gaza ― a list that includes some of Israel’s closest allies on the world stage. So far, the workers who have been identified include Poland’s Damian Soból, Australia’s Zomi Frankcom and Gaza’s Saif Abu-Taha. The U.K. has not yet released the identities of its three workers. The identity of one worker with dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship has also not been made public.

“The love they had for feeding people, the determination they embodied to show that humanity rises above all, and the impact they made in countless lives will be forever remembered and cherished,” WCK CEO Erin Gore said in a statement.

World Central Kitchen, which operates in several countries in need of food assistance due to war and natural disasters, announced on Tuesday that it is immediately pausing aid operations in Gaza and will be “making decisions about the future of our work soon.”

The charity has delivered about 150,000 meals a day in Gaza by collaborating with Anera, a U.S.-based aid group that has operated in the Palestinian territories for decades. Anera also made the decision to suspend operations until the safety and security of aid workers can be guaranteed.

The United Arab Emirates, which is the main funder of WCK’s aid route, also said it would pause its its involvement in the maritime corridor to Gaza until Israel provides assurances that aid workers will be protected.

Australia's Zomi Frankcom, left, and Chef Oli, right, employees of aid organization World Central Kitchen, were killed in an Israeli attack on April 2.
Australia’s Zomi Frankcom, left, and Chef Oli, right, employees of aid organization World Central Kitchen, were killed in an Israeli attack on April 2.

World Central Kitchen/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images

“The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon,” Andrés said. “No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now.”

The U.S., Britain, Poland and Australia have all called for an investigation at minimum from Israel over the attack. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration had spoken directly to the Israeli government about the incident, though he avoided publicly condemning Israel for killing the aid workers. Both Blinken and President Joe Biden have spoken with Andrés, and NSC spokesperson John Kirby said the White House is “outraged” by the strikes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the attack was “unintentional” and “tragic,” but described it as something that “happens in war.” Netanyahu, who in the past has described civilian deaths in Gaza as “collateral damage,” said his government has been in contact with the victims’ home countries and will conduct an investigation into the attack. Historically, Israel’s probes into its own military have rarely produced results that hold the army accountable.

“The victims of yesterday’s strike join a record number of humanitarian workers who have been killed in this particular conflict. These people are heroes. They run into the fire, not away from it. They show the best of what humanity has to offer when the going really gets tough,” Blinken said Tuesday.

“They have to be protected,” he continued. “We shouldn’t have a situation where people who are simply trying to help their fellow human beings are themselves at grave risk.”

The Israeli military has killed more than 200 humanitarian workers in Gaza since launching its military offensive, following the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas in which some 1,200 people were killed and another roughly 250 were taken hostage. More than 30,000 people have since been killed in Gaza, and it’s believed that more than 12,000 of them were children.

The Biden administration has stressed the necessity of providing more aid to Palestinians in Gaza ― despite funding the very military that is blocking said aid ― and has touted the new maritime route while saying it plans to build its own floating dock, since Israel has only allowed a trickle of humanitarian aid to enter by land.

But Israel’s attack on WCK workers threatens ships from being able to actually deliver life-saving aid to Palestinians facing a dire humanitarian crisis, which is in direct conflict with the Biden administration’s statements. Three aid ships coming from Cyprus arrived in Gaza on Monday with 400 tons of food and supplies organized by WCK, but 240 tons of that cargo had to be sent back as a result of Israel’s attack and WCK’s subsequent pause in operations.

Spokespeople for the White House and the State Department declined to comment on whether the U.S. will actually enact policy change and reprimand Israel for continuing to kill humanitarian workers and block aid. The State Department told HuffPost that the agency is ready to provide consular assistance, but that it wouldn’t further comment out of respect for the family of the U.S. citizen who was killed.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,” Gore said. “This is unforgivable.”

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