April 18, 2024

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UPDATE, 5:40 PM: Joe Biden is “outraged and heartbroken” by the killing of aid workers from Chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen on Monday by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

Following up on remarks from the president quoted by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre today, the administration just released a full statement from Biden. And it doesn’t mince words over the tragedy that left seven members of the World Central Kitchen team dead.

“Even more tragically, this is not a stand-alone incident,” Biden said of the IDF’s actions and the spiralling humanitarian crisis coming out of the Jewish state’s response to the murderous attacks on Israeli citizens and soldiers on October 7 last year. “This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed,” the president added as international condemnation of the bombing grows. “This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult – because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.”

See President Biden’s full statement on the World Central Kitchen workers killed in Gaza below

The attack on the charity’s convoy occurred Monday just after the aid workers had unpacked over 100 tons of humanitarian food aid – a fact that World Central Kitchen says the Israeli military had been made aware of. According to Andrés organization, the armored and non-armored vehicles that were bombed were “branded with the WCK logo.”

Saying “this happens in wartime,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government will investigate the incident so “we can to ensure this isn’t repeated.” The death of the British, Australian, ian, Palestinian, and Polish WCK staffers, and a dual US-Canadian citizen, has caused the organization to halt all aid and activity in the besieged region for the immediate future. Over 1 million people are estimated to be on the brink of “catastrophic levels of food insecurity” in Gaza, said the UN in late March.

In the aftermath of the WCK deaths, and as tensions escalate over an attack on Monday of the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria, that saw three dead, the Biden administration has furthered its call for a ceasefire in Gaza. At the same time, the administration is still weighing whether to follow through on its previous promise to Israel of a $18 billion arms transfer package, including over a dozen of F-15 jets

Read President Biden’s full statement on the aid workers killed in Gaza here:

I am outraged and heartbroken by the deaths of seven humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen, including one American, in Gaza yesterday. They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war. They were brave and selfless. Their deaths are a tragedy.

Israel has pledged to conduct a thorough investigation into why the aid workers’ vehicles were hit by airstrikes. That investigation must be swift, it must bring accountability, and its findings must be made public. 

Even more tragically, this is not a stand-alone incident. This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed. This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult – because 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. The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties. 

The United States will continue to do all we can to deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, through all available means. I will continue to press Israel to do more to facilitate that aid. And we are pushing hard for an immediate ceasefire as part of a hostage deal. I have a team in Cairo working on this right now.

Earlier today, I spoke with my friend Chef José Andrés, the founder of World Central Kitchen, to convey my deepest condolences for the deaths of these courageous aid workers and to express my continued support for his and his team’s relentless and heroic efforts to get food to hungry people around the globe. 

May God bless the humanitarian workers killed yesterday and comfort their families and loved ones in their grief.

PREVIOUSLY, 3:09 PM: One day after José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen confirmed that seven of its team providing food in Gaza were killed in an Israel Defense Forces strike, President Biden called Andrés personally to tell the celebrity chef he was “heartbroken” by the news.

“The president conveyed he is grieving with the entire World Central Kitchen family,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a media briefing today. “The president felt it was important to recognize the tremendous contribution World Central Kitchen has made to the people in Gaza and people around the world.”

Jean-Pierre added that Biden “also conveyed to Andrés that he will make clear to Israel that humanitarian aid workers must be protected.”

Andrés first rose to fame with his Spanish cooking show Vamos a Cocinar, and later founded World Central Kitchen. The non-profit, non-governmental organization devoted to providing meals in disaster zones such as Haiti after the earthquake, in the U.S. after Hurricane Harvey and in Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

According to World Central Kitchen, its team “was traveling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle.

“Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.”

Israel launched a military investigation into the strike and, according to local media, found that the army identified the cars carrying World Central Kitchen’s workers arriving at the warehouse in Deir al-Balah and also observed suspected militants nearby. A short time later, the vehicles were struck by the Israel Air Force as they headed away.

“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. This is unforgivable,” said World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore in a statement.

As a result of the deaths, World Central Kitchen has paused food deliveries in Gaza, where experts say famine is imminent.

“We were outraged to learn of an IDF strike that killed a number of civilian humanitarian workers yesterday from the World Central Kitchen, which has been relentless in working to get food to those who are hungry in Gaza, and quite frankly, around the world,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “We send our deepest condolences to their families and loved ones.”



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