Israeli military dismisses two officers over drone strikes on aid workers in Gaza

06 April,2024 10:19 AM IST |  Tel Aviv  |  ANI

The Israeli military said an internal probe found its forces had mistakenly believed they were targeting armed Hamas operatives.

A billow of smoke rises over buildings after an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. File pic/AFP

The Israeli military said that it has dismissed two officers and reprimanded three others for their roles in an attack in Gaza that killed seven aid workers, Al Jazeera reported. The Israeli military said that the officers had mishandled critical information and violated the army's rules of engagement.

The Israeli military said an internal probe found its forces had mistakenly believed they were "targeting armed Hamas operatives."

Seven aid workers, including an Australian, three Britons, a Palestinian, a North American and a Pole, were killed in three airstrikes by an Israeli drone on Monday night as they ran for their lives between three vehicles, according to the military, Al Jazeera reported.

Speaking to reporters, Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said, "It's a serious event that we are responsible for, and it shouldn't have happened, and we will make sure that it won't happen again."

The US-based charity World Central Kitchen (WCK), whose convoy was hit, said Israel's "apologies for the outrageous killing of our colleagues represent cold comfort." The WCK called for an independent probe into the attack.

WCK CEO Erin Gore said, "Israel needs to take concrete steps to assure the safety of humanitarian aid workers. Our operations remain suspended."

According to the Israeli military, after the vehicles left a warehouse where WCK aid had been unloaded, "one of the commanders mistakenly assumed that the gunmen were located inside the accompanying vehicles and these were Hamas terrorists."

In the report, the Israeli military said that the strike on the aid vehicles 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 Israeli military said the officers who were dismissed included a fire support commander holding the rank of major and a brigade chief of staff holding the rank of colonel in reserve. The military formally reprimanded the commander of the brigade involved and the division commander.

Chief of the General Staff Herzi Halevi reprimanded the commander of the Southern Command "for his overall responsibility for the incident," according to the Al Jazeera report.

Meanwhile, Israel's national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has said that military leadership was "abandoning" its soldiers.

In a post on X, Ben-Gvir stated, "The chief of staff's decision to dismiss senior officers is an abandonment of the fighters in the middle of a war and a serious mistake that conveys weakness." He added, "Even if there are mistakes in identification, soldiers are backed up in war."

On Friday, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that "it's very important that Israel is taking full responsibility for this incident ... [and] taking steps to hold those responsible accountable." Meanwhile, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said US had no plans to hold an independent investigation into the killings.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron welcomed Israel's decision to supend two officers and stressed that his country was "carefully reviewing" the findings of Israel's probe. He further said, "These findings must be published in full and followed up with a wholly independent review to ensure the utmost transparency and accountability."

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation, not just for the WCK aid workers killed but for all "196 humanitarian workers" killed since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began.

He said, "The Israeli government has acknowledged mistakes. But the essential problem is not who made the mistakes, it is the military strategy and procedures in place that allow for those mistakes to multiply time and time again."

Poland, after losing one of its citizens in the strikes, has demanded criminal action against Israel for the "murder" of the aid workers. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Szejna said, "We want [Polish] prosecutors to be added and implicated in the explanations and in the entire criminal and disciplinary procedure for the soldiers responsible for this ... murder."

The WCK demanded the formation of an independent commission to probe the killing of its colleagues. It said the Israeli military "cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza," Al Jazeera reported.

The WCK stated that "the root cause of the unjustified rocket fire on our convoy is the severe lack of food in Gaza." It called on Israel to dramatically increase the volume of food and medicine that enters the enclave through land crossings.

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