UK calls for independent review of Israel airstrike that killed 3 British aid workers, as IDF sacks officers for errors

5 April 2024, 16:50

The British victims were former Royal Marines James Henderson and John Chapman and an ex-Army soldier James Kirby.
The British victims were former Royal Marines James Henderson and John Chapman and an ex-Army soldier James Kirby. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The UK has called for an independent review into an Israeli airstrike that killed three British aid workers, after the IDF sacked two officers for their roles in the "grave mistake".

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Former Royal Marines James Henderson and John Chapman, and James Kirby, an ex-army soldier, were among seven aid workers killed in the strike in Gaza.

Israel published the findings of an initial investigation on Friday morning. They said in a statement the strike "should not have occurred" and it was a "grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the Standard Operating Procedures."

The fire support commander of the brigade involved, and the brigade’s chief of staff have been dismissed from their positions, the IDF said.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said in response: "We are carefully reviewing the initial findings of Israel's investigations into the killing of WCK aid workers and welcome the suspension of two officers as a first step.

Former Royal Marines James Henderson and John Chapman and an ex-Army soldier James Kirby were killed in the attack
Former Royal Marines James Henderson and John Chapman and an ex-Army soldier James Kirby were killed in the attack. Picture: Social Media

"These findings must be published in full and followed up with a wholly independent review to ensure the utmost transparency and accountability."

Other commanders have been reprimanded.

The IDF added: "The investigation’s findings indicate that the incident should not have occurred. Those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives and not WCK employees".

World Central Kitchen, whose vehicles were targeted, gave the Israeli military proper advance warning of its route and the vehicles’ roofs were carrying the charity’s logo.

Following Israel's announcement, the WCK said the Israeli investigation is an important step but added that there needs to be a systemic change to prevent "more apologies and more grieving families".

David Cameron
David Cameron. Picture: Alamy

In a statement the charity said: "The IDF has acknowledged its responsibility and its fatal errors in the deadly attack on our convoy in Gaza. It is also taking disciplinary action against those in command and committed to other reforms. These are important steps forward.

"However, it is also clear from their preliminary investigation that the IDF has deployed deadly force without regard to its own protocols, chain of command and rules of engagement.

"The IDF has acknowledged that our teams followed all proper communications procedures. The IDF's own video fails to show any cause to fire on our personnel convoy, which carried no weapons and posed no threat.

"Without systemic change, there will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families.

"The root cause of the unjustified rocket fire on our convoy is the severe lack of food in Gaza. Israel needs to dramatically increase the volume of food and medicine traveling by land if it is serious about supporting humanitarian aid."

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An investigation has revealed both operational and chain of command failings
An investigation has revealed both operational and chain of command failings. Picture: Getty

But information about the convoy did not filter down the chain of command properly, and the IDF drones’ cameras were unable to make out the logo on the roofs at night, an investigation has found.

The IDF investigation found that some of the aid workers survived initial air strikes on the convoy but were killed when a third car was hit.

Drone operators mistook an aid worker carrying a bag for a gunman, and then targeted one of the WCK vehicles with a missile.

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Two people escaped that car and got into a second one, which was also hit.

Survivors of the second blast got into a third vehicle, which was also hit by a missile - by then all the aid workers had been killed.

The initial investigation carried out by Major General, Yoav Har-Even, found that the army unit involved had believed the vehicles they were tracking from the sky had been taken over by Hamas gunmen.

The unit involved did not know the cars belonged to the charity, despite the charity informing the IDF. The three air strikes violated the army’s own procedures, Maj Gen Har-Even found.

The military investigation concluded that at one stage during the vehicle’s movements, there was a “misclassification. . . they saw that it’s a rifle but at the end of the day it was a bag”.

US President Joe Biden has called on Israel to take steps "to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers" during a phone call with Mr Netanyahu following the attack on the World Central Kitchen relief convoy.

The Pentagon said on Thursday that plans to build a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza to help boost the flow of aid into the territory continue to move forward.

Major General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said the floating pier - announced by Mr Biden during his State of the Union address last month - will be on line by the end of the month or early May.

Mr Ryder said Israel has agreed to provide security on the shore as aid is transferred and distributed, but details are still being worked out.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting about attacks on humanitarian workers in Gaza and the risk of famine in the conflict-torn territory on Friday.

A UN aid convoy was scheduled to head out on Thursday night after the UN paused night operations for 48 hours, said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

He told reporters the convoy "will hopefully make it to the north."

"Because of what happened to World Central Kitchen, we had to pause... and regroup and reassess all sorts of factors," he said.

In a statement following the leaders' call, the White House said Mr Biden "made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers".

"He made clear that US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel's immediate action on these steps," the statement said.

Mr Biden also told Mr Netanyahu an "immediate ceasefire is essential" and urged Israel to reach such an accord "without delay", according to the White House, which described the conversation as "direct" and "honest".

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