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Israel admits ‘serious failures’ over deadly strike but insists aid workers were mistaken for Hamas: Updates

Israel has admitted that “serious failures” were made by its forces after seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers were killed in an airstrike in Gaza.

The IDF announced on Friday that its internal investigation into the incident had concluded.

While admitting that a “grave mistake” was made, the IDF continued to claim innocence over the attack – insisting that the WCK workers were “misidentified” as Hamas militants. Two military officers have been dismissed from their positions following the findings, the IDF said.

More than 220 humanitarian workers have been killed in the conflict, according to the UN. Scott Paul of Oxfam said on Thursday: “The killing of aid workers in Gaza has been systemic.”

The announcement comes hours after Israel agreed to reopen two border crossings into Gaza to increase the flow of humanitarian aid, after President Joe Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a call that future US support for Israel would be determined by its efforts to protect civilians and aid workers.

Meanwhile, former UK foreign secretary Alan Duncan is being investigated by Tory chiefs after he said pro-Israel “extremists” in the party should be kicked out over their refusal to support international law.

Key points

  • Israel admits ‘grave mistake’ after seven aid workers killed in strike in Gaza

  • Israel approves opening of two humanitarian routes into Gaza after call with Biden

  • Calls grow for Rishi Sunak to stop UK arms trade to Israel

  • Alan Duncan faces expulsion from Tory party for attacking ‘pro Israel extremist’ Conservatives

  • Former officials speak out against Biden’s Israel support after aid worker killings

  • World Central Kitchen calls for independent probe into Israeli air strike

Trump makes no mention of aid workers killed in Gaza and lashes out at Biden over Israel

22:00 , Holly Evans

Donald Trump criticised President Joe Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict and seemingly stepped back his support for the country as they wage war in Gaza – but made no mention of the seven World Central Kitchen workers killed by Isaraeli airstrikes on Wednesday.

In an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Thursday, the former president asserted that Mr Biden was “grossly incompetent” – citing the chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan – and advised Israel not to follow the president’s advice as tensions heat up between Israel and the US.

“I wouldn’t listen to them. I wouldn’t take any instruction from them. Israel knows what they’re doing,” Mr Trump said.

Read the full article:

Trump doesn’t mention aid workers killed in Gaza while speaking about Israel

Chaos, distrust and indiscipline are undermining Israel’s war, say insiders

21:40 , Holly Evans

As Benjamin Netanyahu’s government bows to pressure to open another entry point for aid into Gaza, some Israeli officials have warned that there could be a repeat of the deadly convoy airstrike blunder because of fundamental flaws in the aims and conduct of the war.

Two officers of the Israel Defense Forces – a colonel and a major – are to be dismissed over the attack on vehicles belonging to World Central Kitchen (WCK). The incident killed seven charity employees – three of them British – and drew international condemnation.

But a number of officials, some in the security sphere, have told The Independent that the conditions for what happened were created by a number of factors, including unclear rules of engagement in Gaza; indiscipline and a sense of impunity among soldiers; inflammatory rhetoric from hard-right politicians; and the disdain of some in the military for a defence ministry unit known as Cogat – the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories – because the liaison group is deemed to be “too soft” on Palestinians.

Read the full article from our world affairs editor Kim Sengupta here:

Chaos, distrust and indiscipline are undermining Israel’s war, say insiders

Biden urges Egypt, Qatar leaders to press Hamas to come to agreement for Israeli hostages in Gaza

21:14 , Holly Evans

President Joe Biden on Friday wrote to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, calling on them to press Hamas for hostage deal with Israel, according to a senior administration official, one day after Biden called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to redouble efforts to reach a cease-fire in the six-month-old war in Gaza.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private letters, said Biden’s national security adviser will meet Monday with family members of some of the estimated 100 hostages who are believed to still be in Gaza.

The letters come as Biden has deployed CIA Director Bill Burns to Cairo for talks this weekend about the hostage crisis.

Colombia seeks to join Gaza genocide case against Israel at World Court

21:00 , Holly Evans

Colombia has asked the International Court of Justice to allow the country to intervene in South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip, the court said Friday.

In its application, Colombia called on the court to ensure “the safety and, indeed, the very existence of the Palestinian people”.

The ICJ, the highest U.N. court, can allow states to intervene and give their views. Several states have said they would also seek to intervene in the case but so far only Colombia and Nicaragua have filed a public request.

Last week ICJ judges ordered Israel to take all necessary and effective action to ensure basic food supplies arrive without delay to Palestinians in Gaza.

In January the ICJ, also known as the World Court, ordered Israel to refrain from any acts that could fall under the genocide convention and to ensure its troops commit no genocidal acts against Palestinians in Gaza.

Egyptian authorities arrest 10 after a pro-Gaza rally calling for severing ties with Israel

20:30 , Holly Evans

Egyptian authorities this week arrested 10 activists who participated in a pro-Palestinian protest where they accused the government of contributing to the siege of Gaza and called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, a human rights lawyer said.

Egypt’s government has condemned Israel’s campaign in Gaza and has played a central role, along with the U.S. and Qatar, in trying to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. But it has largely banned public protests, and criticism of the country’s ties with Israel is highly sensitive.

On Wednesday, nearly 200 people rallied outside the building of the Journalist Syndicate in Cairo, waving the Palestinian flag and chanting slogans: “What a disgrace! Egypt is helping the siege!” and “No to the Israeli Embassy! No to normalization”. They also raised banners reading “Open the Rafah crossing” and “Glory to the Palestinian resistance.”

Read the full article here:

Egyptian authorities arrest 10 after a pro-Gaza rally calling for severing ties with Israel

New Gaza ceasefire-for-hostages talks set for Cairo this weekend

20:00 , Holly Evans

A fresh round of talks aimed at arranging a Gaza ceasefire in exchange for hostages held by Hamas militants is being planned for Cairo this weekend with U.S. representation, the White House said on Friday.

CIA Director Bill Burns will lead the U.S. delegation, a U.S. official said.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Thursday to empower his negotiators in Cairo so that a deal can be reached as soon as possible.

A fresh round of Gaza ceasefire talks are due to take place (AFP via Getty Images)
A fresh round of Gaza ceasefire talks are due to take place (AFP via Getty Images)

The United States and its allies view a ceasefire as essential to allowing more humanitarian aid to get into Gaza amid fears of famine among the Palestinians there.

Under the most recent proposal, Israel and Hamas would agree to a six-week ceasefire in exchange for the release of sick, elderly and wounded hostages held by Hamas. Progress on a deal has been stalled for weeks.

Amnesty International calls for UK to stop trade of arms to Israel

19:30 , Holly Evans

Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK’s Crisis Response Manager, said: “These killings were only the latest in a sickening death toll of aid workers in Gaza, and the Israeli authorities have a decades-long history of cover-ups.

“Years of so-called ‘investigations’ by Israel into abuses committed by its forces in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem have worked to deny justice for grieving families.

“The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and other ministers need to finally start confronting the reality of Israeli war crimes in Gaza and take action now to ensure there are consequences.

“The UK should immediately stop transfers of arms to Israel and fully support efforts by the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice to examine the long catalogue of Israeli atrocities in Gaza.”

Mood in State Department is ‘worse than Iraq’ over Biden’s Gaza policy

18:57 , Holly Evans

The mood among staff in the State Department is worse than during the disastrous American invasion of Iraq, according to a former staffer, as seven international aid workers were killed by Israel in Gaza.

“I have never seen this much dissent,” Charles Blaha, former director of the State Department’s Office of Security and Human Rights, told The Independent, amid growing disquiet over president Joe Biden’s Gaza policy.

“I was in the State Department for 32 years, including during the Iraq War, and I have never seen this much unhappiness. It was even worse than Iraq. So yeah, people are concerned,” Mr Blaha, who maintains contact with current staffers, said.

Read the full article here:

Mood in State Department is ‘worse than Iraq’ over Biden’s Gaza policy

In pictures: Pro-Palestine protest in London

17:43 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Pro-Palestinian protesters take part at a demonstration on Al Quds Day in London.

 (AP)
(AP)
 (AP)
(AP)
 (AP)
(AP)

Families in north Gaza ‘forced to survive on a less than a can of beans’ a day

17:19 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Families in north Gaza are forced to live on less than a can of fava beans a day, Oxfam has said as senior UN officials described malnourished newborns so small that they weigh little more than a kilo.

Over 300,000 people are still believed to be trapped in the north of the besieged strip, which has seen the worst of Israel’s ferocious bombardment and where little to no aid has been getting in.

There, since January, families have been surviving on an average of 245 calories a day, according to Oxfam - less than 12 percent of the average recommended daily calorie needs.

Families in Gaza living on a ‘less than a can of beans a day’

Cameron urges Israel to follow investigation into deadly strikes on aid workers with independent review

16:54 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Israel must follow up its report into how three British aid workers were killed with “a wholly independent review to ensure the utmost transparency”, Lord David Cameron has said.

The UK will carefully review the findings of the initial Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) report into the incident released on Friday, the Foreign Secretary added.

Three Britons were among the World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers who died in air strikes by the IDF on Monday - John Chapman, 57, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47.

The Israeli forces dismissed two officers over the strikes, which it described as a “grave mistake stemming from a serious failure”.

Three other senior officers were also reprimanded for their roles in the strike, which took place in Gaza.

The attack on the WCK aid convoy has resulted in rebukes from Israel‘s allies, while MPs from across the political spectrum have questioned whether the UK should continue exporting arms to the Middle Eastern country.

EU's Borrell: Israel's new aid corridors are not enough to stop starvation in Gaza

16:46 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Israel‘s decision to open up some new corridors for humanitarian aid in Gaza will still not be enough to prevent starvation in Gaza, said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Friday.

“Following widespread condemnation of the killing of 7 @WCKitchen staffers by IDF and mounting international pressure, the Israeli gov will open some corridors for humanitarian aid. It’s not enough to prevent starvation in #Gaza,” wrote Borrell on X.

“The binding UN Security Council Resolution 2728 must be implemented. Now.” he added.

UN human rights body calls for halt to weapons shipments to Israel as concerns about Gaza war mount

16:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The U.N.’s top human rights body called on countries to stop selling or shipping weapons to Israel in a resolution passed Friday that aims to help prevent rights violations against Palestinians amid Israel’s blistering military campaign in Gaza.

The 47-member-country Human Rights Council voted 28-6 in favor of the resolution, with 13 abstentions.

The sweeping measure takes aim at an array of Israeli actions such as impeding access to water and limiting shipments of humanitarian aid into Palestinian areas. It also calls on U.N.-backed independent investigators to report on shipments of weapons, munitions and “dual use” items — that have both civilian and military applications — that could be used by Israel against Palestinians.

UN human rights body calls for halt to weapons shipments to Israel as concerns about Gaza war mount

Israel admits ‘grave mistake’ and sacks senior officers after Gaza bombing kills seven aid workers

16:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Israel has admitted its forces made a “grave mistake” after seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed in an airstrike.

The humanitarian group, which delivers food aid to war and disaster zones, said the seven were returning from coordinating an aid shipment in central Gaza when their three-car convoy was struck and they were killed.

Their deaths triggered a wave of international condemnation and shone a fresh spotlight on the dire conditions that Gaza’s besieged population is suffering from in the embattled enclave.

Israel admits ‘grave mistake’ after bombing kills seven aid workers in Gaza

If ever there was a time for America to use its might to make Israel do right, it is now

15:35 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Editorial: To dissuade Benjamin Netanyahu from his current deadly course in Gaza, and possibly beyond, it falls to Joe Biden to make America’s diplomatic, financial and military support firmly conditional. Depriving the US ally of its weapons of war – and adding to its international isolation – is becoming, sadly, inevitable:

“Stop it – stop it now.” It is not just Jill Biden who is begging her husband to act decisively to end the war in Gaza. The deaths of the seven heroic international aid workers have triggered a global howl of humanitarian anguish.

In all likelihood, Joe Biden, a compassionate and emotional man, doesn’t need Flotus to tell him what needs to be done. He has struggled with the painful dilemmas the present crisis has created for many months. He was as shocked as anyone at the atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 October.

Instinctively, the president stood by Israel. So did the world. But the president has also clearly been increasingly troubled by the conduct of the war. He has grown more outspoken about the casualties and breaches of international law. He has lifted the US veto at the UN and called for a ceasefire.

If ever there was a time for America to force Israel to do right, it is now

UN chief hopes Israel effectively boosts Gaza aid access

15:15 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday that he sincerely hopes Israel quickly and effectively boosts aid access to the Gaza Strip, describing the situation in the Palestinian enclave after six months of war as “absolutely desperate.”

“When the gates to aid are closed, the doors to starvation are opened. More than half the population - over a million people - are facing catastrophic hunger. Children in Gaza today are dying for lack of food and water,” Guterres told reporters.

“This is incomprehensible, and entirely avoidable,” he said. “Nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

“The Israeli government has acknowledged mistakes,” Guterres said. “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.”

“Fixing those failures requires independent investigations and meaningful and measurable changes on the ground,” he said. “196 humanitarian workers have been killed and we want to know why each one of them was killed.”

Guterres also said he was “deeply troubled” by reports that the Israeli military has been using artificial intelligence to help identify bombing targets in Gaza. The Israeli military denies AI was used to identify suspected extremists and targets.

“No part of life and death decisions which impact entire families should be delegated to the cold calculation of algorithms,” Guterres said.

Gaza war shatters Palestinian family and its simple dream of opening a pizzeria

14:53 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Palestinian Redwan Abu Alkas lost his daughter in an Israeli airstrike. His home was destroyed and the family’s dream of opening its own business, a pizzeria in the once bustling Gaza Strip, was shattered.

The family had saved up the money and bought all the equipment. That was before the Israeli bombardment of one of the most densely populated areas in the world began in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militants who rule Gaza.

“In this war, I lost my daughter, first of all. I used to have money to start a good project. I had gained enough experience from working in restaurants in Gaza Strip - I worked in most of the restaurants in Gaza - and now there is nothing,” Redwan told Reuters at a U.N.-run school being used as a shelter for displaced Palestinians.

“...I had a brother who was going to be my partner, he is now wounded. He might get better, he might not. All the money that I had for the project is gone because of price rises.”

Redwan’s brother, Hamza, is confined to a wheelchair. He was wounded while trying to secure food aid.

“I stopped going out and seeing people. I’m sitting in a wheelchair and in bed, being treated and sometimes circumstances prevent me from getting to the hospital to get treatment because of the occupation,” he said.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Israel’s war has reached a tipping point – and risks spinning out of control

14:27 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The US has made it clear it no longer trusts Israel’s actions in Gaza, writes Nomi Bar-Yaacov. The only way to get humanitarian aid safely in is with an immediate ceasefire, and an end to the war:

The Israeli army’s killing of seven international aid workers from the World Central Kitchen serves as a terrible reminder that the Israel-Hamas war has gone on for far too long.

Now is the time to end it with a comprehensive ceasefire agreement, the release of all the hostages, a return of the displaced Gazan population to their towns and villages, and the opening of a land crossing to allow unhindered flow of humanitarian aid.

Plans for the rehabilitation of Gaza coupled with a carefully mapped out plan for Palestinian statehood and Israeli normalisation with Arab states must follow suit.

Read more here:

Israel’s war has reached a tipping point – and risks spinning out of control

Ireland pulls multi-million euro investment in six Israeli companies

14:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Irish government has pulled millions of euros of investment from several Israeli companies.

The Irish National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) confirmed that it had made the decision to divest almost three million euros from its global equity portfolio in the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).

The divestment decision relates to shareholdings with a total value of 2.95 million euros in the following six companies: Bank Hapoalim BM; Bank Leumi-le Israel BM; Israel Discount Bank; Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd; First International Bank and Rami Levi CN Stores.

Irish finance minister Michael McGrath said it was the "correct decision".

He said: "ISIF has determined that the risk profile of these investments is no longer within its investment parameters and that the commercial objectives of these investments can be achieved via other investments.

"The decision will be implemented as soon as possible over the coming weeks.

"I am advised ISIF will keep under review the alignment of relevant investments within its investment parameters and commercial objectives.

"While recognising the independence of ISIF in the management of the investment portfolio, I believe this is the correct investment decision in respect of the assets it manages on behalf of the State."

Labour calls for government to publish evidence on how UK arms exports are being used

13:35 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves called for the government to publish all the evidence about how UK arms exports were being used.

She said: “I think it is really important that policy is based on evidence, and it is the government’s duty to publish this evidence.

“It is not just Labour MPs that are calling for this: many people across the political spectrum and beyond are saying that the government must publish this evidence so that the right decisions can be made.

“UK law is really clear about this. If there is a risk that UK arms exports are going to be used in a way that risks breaching international law, the licences cannot be granted and that’s why it is now so important that they publish that evidence.”

She added: “I am incredibly concerned about the scenes that we are seeing unfold in Gaza, the failure to get aid in, the attacks on the aid convoys. The situation is of utmost concern.

“I was pleased to see that in the last few hours President Biden has called for an immediate ceasefire. That is right and proper. It is the only way now to get the much-needed aid into Gaza and avoid a man-made famine and it is the only way to get the Israeli hostages out of Gaza. That ceasefire must happen and it must happen now.”

500 police deployed for protests in London amid tensions over Israel-Gaza war

13:17 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

More than 500 officers are being deployed in central London to police an annual march in support of Palestine and a pro-Isreal counter protest outside the House of Parliament.

The Metropolitan Police announced details of a major policing operation ahead of the demonstrations on Friday amid tensions over the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

The force said it has been in discussion with the organisers of both demonstrations – which are each subject to conditions under the Public Order Act.

500 police deployed for protests in London amid tensions over Israel-Gaza war

What would President Trump 2.0 look like?

13:00 , Josh Marcus

The US is Israel’s most important ally, and the man managing that relationship could be Donald Trump in the coming months.

In our latest Behind The Headlines, we examine what another four years of Trump could look like, with reporting from Andrew Feinberg.

What would a President Trump 2.0 look like?

World Central Kitchen demands independent probe into air worker killings

12:32 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

World Central Kitchen demands the creation of an independent commission to investigate killings of its aid workers by Israel‘s Defence Forces (IDF), the aid charity said in a statement.

“The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza,” it said.

Blood-stained British, Polish, and Australian passports after an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers in Gaza (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Blood-stained British, Polish, and Australian passports after an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers in Gaza (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

World Central Kitchen releases statament following Israel’s investigation into death of aid workers

12:21 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

In a statement after the Israeli military dismissed two officers over drone strikes that killed seven workers from World Central Kitchen, the aid organisation 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.”

What’s even more shocking than three Britons killed in Gaza? They take the death toll of aid workers past 200

12:09 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Humanitarian volunteers have paid a terrible price for delivering vital aid to people trapped in Gaza’s danger zones.

As experts say the UN has recorded the highest number of staff fatalities since the Second World War, Bel Trew assesses the chilling impact of Israeli airstrikes on the food charity convoy:

The group of aid workers were coming back from a long day coordinating the latest delivery of supplies to Gaza via a new maritime corridor to help fight a looming famine in the 42km strip. The aid, coordinated with Israel and Cyprus, was handled by World Central Kitchen (WCK), a US-based charity which feeds people across the world’s front lines and disaster zones.

A Palestinian aid worker back at their base in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, told The Independent he was waiting for the team to get home.

But just after 10pm local time, Israel pounded the three-vehicle convoy, killing all seven aid workers including three British citizens. This, despite the fact they were travelling in a deconflicted zone in cars branded with the WCK logo and their movements were coordinated with the Israelis.

The deaths of British aid workers in Gaza is part of a deadly pattern

Over 220 humanitarian workers killed in Israel-Gaza war

11:57 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

More than 220 humanitarian workers have been killed in the conflict, according to the U.N.

“Let’s be very clear. This is tragic, but it is not an anomaly,” Scott Paul, of the humanitarian group Oxfam, said Thursday in a briefing with other relief organizations before the results of Israel’s investigation were released. “The killing of aid workers in Gaza has been systemic.”

The army declined to answer questions about whether similar violations of rules of engagement have taken place during the war — in which Palestinians, aid workers and international rights groups have repeatedly accused the army of recklessly striking civilians.

11:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Israel’s investigation into the incident was led by Yoav Har-Even, a retired military officer.

He said: “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.

“The strike on the aid vehicles is 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.”

What Israel claims led to the bombing of the aid trucks

11:48 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Israel’s findings into the incident claim that they identified two gunmen on one of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid trucks.

They claimed that one of their commanders assumed the gunmen were Hamas militants. Following this assumption, they did not identify the aid trucks as WCK.

They then targeted the three WCK trucks.

Two military officers dismissed over deadly attack on aid workers

11:42 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Israel’s investigation into the bombing of seven aid workers was led by Yoav Har-Even, a retired military officer, who on Friday said two military officers have been dismissed over the drone strikes on aid workers.

 (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Israel admits ‘grave mistake’ after bombing kills seven aid workers in Gaza

11:36 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Israel has admitted its forces made a “grave mistake” after seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen were killed in an airstrike.

The humanitarian group, which delivers food aid to war and disaster zones, said the seven were returning from coordinating an aid shipment in central Gaza when their three car convoy was struck and they were killed.

Follow this breaking news story here:

Israel admits ‘grave mistake’ after bombing kills seven aid workers in Gaza

Opinion | It’s time to put Conservatives’ links with Israel under the spotlight

11:23 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Conservative Friends of Israel, the long-standing parliamentary lobby group, is beginning to resemble the Westminster outpost for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud coalition, says Peter Oborne.

He writes: “Conservative Friends of Israel boasts that its membership includes 80 per cent of Tory MPs. It can whistle up cabinet ministers for its lunches and dinners, and has superb access to Downing Street, Westminster and Whitehall. There are queues round the block to its famous party at the annual Tory conference.

“The Conservative historian and politician Robert Rhodes James defined the CFI as ‘the largest organisation in Western Europe dedicated to the cause of the people of Israel.

“That was 40 years ago. Its influence has grown substantially since.”

Read the full article here:

It’s time to put Conservatives’ links with Israel under the spotlight

Israel approves reopening of Erez crossing into Gaza

11:05 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Israel said it approved the reopening of the Erez crossing into northern Gaza and the temporary use of Ashdod port in southern Israel, following U.S. demands to increase humanitarian aid supplies into Gaza.

During a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday night, U.S. President Joe Biden demanded “specific, concrete” steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying conditions could be placed on U.S. aid if Israel did not respond.

A meeting of the security cabinet late on Thursday approved immediate steps to increase humanitarian aid to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, a statement said.

In addition to reopening the Erez crossing point, which has been closed since it was destroyed during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, the security cabinet also approved increasing Jordanian aid through the Kerem Shalom crossing point, the statement said.

The move was welcomed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken who said the impact of the move would have to be measured in an improved situation on the ground in Gaza, where aid agencies have warned of an increasing risk of famine.

“Really the proof is in the results, and we will see those unfold in the coming days, in the coming weeks,” Blinken said, speaking alongside European Union leaders in Belgium.

A general view of Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip in the background, as seen from southern Israel (REUTERS)
A general view of Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip in the background, as seen from southern Israel (REUTERS)

Three British aid workers killed by Israeli strike in Gaza named as Sunak demands investigation from Netanyahu

10:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

In case you missed it...

Three British citizens killed in an Israeli airstrike on an aid mission travelling through Gaza have been named as Rishi Sunak demanded a “thorough and transparent investigation” from Israel.

James Henderson, John Chapman and James Kirby were among seven aid workers employed by charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) who died in the attack on the three-vehicle convoy on Monday.

On Tuesday evening, Mr Sunak telephoned Benjamin Netanyahu to say that “far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza” and that the situation there is “increasingly intolerable”.

The White House said it was also “outraged” by the incident, which killed workers and volunteers WCK, a charity that was supplying food to starving Palestinians.

Bel Trew and Alastair Jamieson report.

All seven aid workers killed by Israeli strike in Gaza named

UK has ‘no choice’ but to suspend arms sales to Israel, Tory MP says

10:25 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Alicia Kearns MP said the UK has “no choice” but to suspend arms sales to Israel.

Speaking to BBC Radio today, the Chair of Foreign Affairs and Select Committee, said: “I believe we have no choice but to suspend arm sales to Israel, and it’s important the public understands this isn’t a political decision.

“UK arms export licenses require a recipient to comply with international humanitarian law, and that’s why emergency handbrakes exist in a change of circumstances.”

 (AP)
(AP)

UN rights body adopts resolution on Israel accountability for possible war crimes

10:13 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday adopted a resolution calling for Israel to be held accountable for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Gaza Strip.

Twenty-eight countries voted in favour, 13 abstained and six voted against the resolution.

How AI is fueling Israel’s target list

10:00 , Josh Marcus

In the weeks immediately after Hamas’s 7 October surprise attack on Israel, the Israel Defense Forces allegedly intentionally targeted civilian homes and allegedly used an AI-based programme called Lavender to generate targets for assassination, generating scores of bombings based on decisions made with scant human review.

At one point, the system used mass surveillance in Gaza to generate a list of 37,000 bombing targets, including numerous low-level alleged Hamas operatives who wouldn’t typically be the targets of bombing operations, according to a report.

The allegations, uncovered by +972 Magazine and Local Call, are based on interviews with six Israeli intelligence officers who served during the conflict with Hamas in Gaza and were involved in the use of AI to investigate targets.

One officer said his role in the system was as a mere “rubber stamp” on Lavender’s targeting decisions, spending only a few seconds personally reviewing the system’s recommendations.

More details in our full story.

Israel reportedly used ‘Lavender’ AI system to ID thousands of targets in Gaza war

The article that triggered Tory civil war over Israel

09:49 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

An outspoken attack on Israel by former Tory foreign minister Alan Duncan first reported in The Independent has now led to the prospect of him being expelled from the party.

Writing for this newspaper, Sir Alan said: “Challenging the right of Israel to exist, or failing to condemn antisemitism and the atrocity of 7 October, are all inexcusable – but the noise around any of these issues should not be allowed to disguise the appalling conduct of Israel itself.

“In all the months before Hamas slaughtered hundreds of innocent Israelis, there was hardly a squeak of condemnation from world leaders about the growing extremism of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, both within and outside Israel.

His judicial reforms were an attack on freedom and justice within his own country, while ever more violent settler activity against Palestinians in the West Bank accelerated under the watchful and supportive gaze of the Israeli Defence Forces.”

Read the full article here:

Sir Alan Duncan: How can we still call Israel an ally?

Israel approves opening of two humanitarian routes into Gaza after call with Biden

09:32 , Joe Middleton

Israel has agreed to reopen two border crossings into Gaza after the cabinet approved a series of “immediate steps” amid pressure over the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Strip.

The Erez crossing in northern Gaza will be opened for the first time since the conflict began on 7 October and Ashdod Port will be opened to allow aid shipments, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Friday.

“This increased aid will prevent a humanitarian crisis and is necessary to ensure the continuation of the fighting and to achieve the goals of the war,” Mr Netanyahu’s office said.

Israel approves opening of two humanitarian routes into Gaza after call with Biden

Are Jill and Joe Biden clashing over Gaza war?

09:10 , Rachel Sharp

First Lady Dr Jill Biden is reportedly one of the strongest voices calling for the end of civilian deaths in Gaza in the White House and has been urging her husband, President Joe Biden, to help cease the violence.

Earlier this week, Mr Biden met with Muslim community members – something the first lady allegedly said she disapproved of because of Mr Biden’s support of Israel in the conflict with Hamas, according to a New York Times report.

One meeting attendee, Salima Suswell, the founder of the Black Muslim Leadership Council, said that Mr Biden recounted that Dr Biden had been urging him to, “stop it, stop it now”.

The first lady’s plea comes as human rights organisations warn world leaders that innocent Palestinians are facing threats of starvation and disease with little access to humanitarian aid. Just this week, seven World Central Kitchen workers who were delivering food to civilians in Gaza were killed by an Israeli airstrike.

Ariana Baio reports.

Jill Biden privately pleads with Joe to stop Gaza’s suffering, report says

Calls grow for Rishi Sunak to stop UK arms trade to Israel NOW

08:58 , Joe Middleton

Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure – including from within his own party – to immediately suspend arms sales to Israel amid a growing chorus of opposition to the number of civilians killed in its war on Hamas.

The prime minister faces calls from Tory grandees, hundreds of lawyers, dozens of MPs and peers from across the political spectrum, as well as top military commanders to halt arms exports to the nation.

Mr Sunak has also been urged to exert Britain’s influence on Israel to force a change of approach in how Israel Defence Forces (IDF) conducts the invasion.

Bel Trew and Archie Mitchell report

Calls grow for Rishi Sunak to stop UK arms trade to Israel NOW

Alan Duncan faces expulsion from Tory party for attacking ‘pro Israel extremist’ Conservatives

08:53 , Joe Middleton

Former foreign minister Sir Alan Duncan is being investigated by Tory chiefs after he said pro-Israel “extremists” in the party should be kicked out because they refused to support international law.

Sir Alan said ex-cabinet minister Eric Pickles and Tory peer Stuart Polak, both members of the powerful Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) organisation, should both be thrown out of the party.

The CFI was being used to ‘exercise the interests of another country’ by lobbying for Israel, he said.

He also branded Michael Gove, Oliver Dowden, Suella Braverman, Robert Jenrick and Priti Patel “extremists” for failing to denounce unlawful Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

Archie Mitchell reports

Alan Duncan faces expulsion from party for attacking ‘pro-Israel extremist’ Tories

NSC responds to steps announced by Israel to increase aid flow to Gaza

08:50 , Rachel Sharp

The National Security Council has responded to the steps announced by Israel to increase aid flow to Gaza.

Read the statement in full:

We welcome the steps announced by the Israeli government tonight at the President’s request following his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

These steps, including a commitment to open the Ashdod port for the direct delivery of assistance into Gaza, to open the Erez crossing for a new route for assistance to reach north Gaza, and to significantly increase deliveries from Jordan directly into Gaza, must now be fully and rapidly implemented.

As the President said today on the call, U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these and other steps, including steps to protect innocent civilians and the safety of aid workers.

We are prepared to work in full coordination with the Government of Israel, the Governments of Jordan and Egypt, the United Nations, and humanitarian organizations, to ensure that these important steps are implemented and result in a significant increase in humanitarian assistance reaching civilians in dire need throughout Gaza over the coming days and weeks.

Israel approves opening of two humanitarian routes into Gaza after call with Biden

08:28 , Rachel Sharp

Israel has agreed to reopen two border crossings into Gaza after the cabinet approved a series of “immediate steps” amid pressure over the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Strip.

The Erez crossing in northern Gaza will be opened for the first time since the conflict began on 7 October and Ashdod Port will be opened to allow aid shipments, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Friday.

“This increased aid will prevent a humanitarian crisis and is necessary to ensure the continuation of the fighting and to achieve the goals of the war,” Mr Netanyahu’s office said.

The decision follows US president Joe Biden’s first phone call to the Israeli prime minister since the drone strike on the vehicles of seven charity workers killed in Gaza.

Read the full story:

Israel approves opening of two humanitarian routes into Gaza after call with Biden

‘No one can change his mind’

07:30 , Josh Marcus

Investigations into potential Israeli war crimes and violations of international law are being undermined by President Joe Biden’s insistence on providing his close ally with billions of dollars in unconditional military support, several former State Department and Pentagon officials told The Independent.

Speaking out after the killing of seven international aid workers by Israel in Gaza, among them an American citizen, one former Pentagon attorney said that any US investigations into Israel’s actions were “perfunctory” and “performative” due to pressure from the White House.

The former officials say the president’s decades-long and deeply held personal connection to Israel renders US laws and regulations concerning US arms sales essentially toothless.

“There’s no incentive to investigate if the president and the White House themselves have announced that aid is unconditional,” said Brian Finucane, who worked for a decade in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department advising on arms transfers and the laws of war.

Richard Hall reports.

Former officials speak out against Biden’s unconditional support for Israel

ICYMI: World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres says aid workers were ‘systematically’ targeted

05:45 , Josh Marcus

World Central Kitchen founder and renowned chef Jose Andres accused Israel of targeting the seven aid workers who were killed by an IDF airstrike in Gaza, “systematically, car by car.”

Mr Andres told Reuters that World Central Kitchen (WCK), a charity that provides food to people in disaster zones including Gaza, was transparent about its movements in the besieged strip.

The seven staff were killed in Gaza in a marked convoy after unloading 100 tonnes of food aid from a barge.

“This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,” Mr Andres said. “Even if we were not in coordination with the (Israel Defense Forces), no democratic country and no military can be targeting civilians and humanitarians.”

Kelly Rissman reports.

World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres says workers were ‘systematically’ targeted

What comes next in the World Central Kitchen investigation?

04:15 , Josh Marcus

World leaders from multiple nations have called on Israeli officials to investigation the killing of seven aid workers in Gaza in an IDF air strike.

Katie Hawkinson reports on what an investigation could look like.

What does an ‘investigation’ into World Central Kitchen workers’ deaths really mean?

ICYMI: Biden warns Netanyahu US support for Gaza war now depends on Israel protecting civilians and aid workers

03:00 , Josh Marcus

President Joe Biden told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that future US policy towards Israel will be determined by whether its government takes action to protect aid workers and civilians in Gaza.

The warning came in their first telephone conversation since Israel Defense Force drones fired three missiles into a World Central Kitchen aid convoy.

Andrew Feinberg and Richard Hall report.

Biden warns Netanyahu US support for Gaza war depends on Israel protecting civilians

Why The Independent is calling on the US to slow down Israel’s war machine

02:00 , Josh Marcus

To dissuade the Israelis from following their current plan, the president will have to use more than words: he must make America’s diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel firmly conditional. American aircraft, tanks and missiles used in combat in Gaza must now have a new fitment – some political strings attached. If they do not, then the flow of American armaments and technology to Israel will have to cease. Indeed, depriving Israel of the weapons of war, and adding to its international isolation, is becoming, sadly, inevitable. If need be – and that seems highly likely – America must stop sending arms to Israel.

Read the full editorial here.

If ever there was a time for America to force Israel to do right, it is now

How many civilians have died in the Israel-Hamas war?

01:45 , Josh Marcus

Monday’s deadly IDF strike on a group of aid workers in Gaza is bringing attention to the high civilian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war.

Just how many innocents have been affected?

According to the UN, at least 32,623 Palestinians overall have been killed since the fighting began, with seventy percent of the dead women and children.

Israel, meanwhile, claims that it has killed between 11,500 and 13,000 Palestinian militants since the war began.

During Hamas’s initial 7 October attack on Israel, another roughly 1,200 people, most of them civilians, were killed.

Will aid workers be safer with new Israeli tactics

01:30 , Josh Marcus

Amid the fallout of a disasterous strike on seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza, Israel has promised to adjust its tactics.

To start, Israel says it will establish a joint operational coordination room inside of its Southern Command to work alongside humanitarian agencies and coordinate safe movements.

The country has also said it will release an investigative report on the airstrike to the public, according to Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, who gave a public briefing on Thursday.

“And I believe that, after we present this to the ambassadors from the respective countries, and to the members of the WCK organisation, we will make it public in a clear, transparent manner - and that will happen soon,” he said.

The DOJ’s divergent approach on war crimes in Ukraine vs Gaza

01:15 , Josh Marcus

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the US was quick to assist the Ukrainians in prosecuting war crimes, and in bringing charges itself against four Russian-allied troops in December.

However, Attorney General Merrick Garland has barely spoken in public about potential war crimes in the Israel-Hamas war, despite numerous instances during the conflict that rights group believe have crossed the line.

As NPR notes, Mr Garland has said just 29 words in public about war crimes in the conflict in Gaza.

“Hamas murdered more than 30 Americans and kidnapped more during their terrorist attack on Oct. 7. We are investigating those heinous crimes, and we will hold those people accountable,” he said in December.

Jacob Flickinger’s parents don’t believe IDF strike on aid workers was accident

Friday 5 April 2024 00:55 , Josh Marcus

The parents of Jacob Flickinger, one of seven aid workers killed this week in an Israeli airstrike, don’t believe the incident in Gaza was an accident.

“They were aware, the entire world was aware, this food shipment was coming in,” John Flickinger told CBS News on Thursday. “It’s been international news for days. They were aware the food was picked up at the ship on the coast of Gaza and delivered to a warehouse along an approved humanitarian route approved by Israel. Soon after they dropped the food off, we know they were targeted. The convoy was clearly marked. The vehicles were clearly marked. The facts on the ground seemed to indicate it wasn’t a ‘tragic accident.’”

Survivors of Al-Shifa siege recount horrifying experiences

Friday 5 April 2024 00:40 , Josh Marcus

Earlier this week, Israel withdrew from Gaza’s largest hospital after two weeks of “close-quarter” fighting in which it claimed hundreds of militants were killed or arrested.

Civilians who survived the fighting at the Shifa hospital said the violence left them without food and medicine, and caused them deep psychological trauma.

One patient told the World Health Organization, “My psyche has been shattered from within.”

Read more of our reporting on the siege.

Israeli military withdraws from Shifa Hospital amid Netanyahu protests

Israel approves reopening of Erez border crossing

Friday 5 April 2024 00:25 , Josh Marcus

Israel’s war cabinet has agreed to reopen the Erez border crossing between Israel and northern Gaza for the first time since the war with Hamas began last year, CNN reports, citing an Israeli official.

The decision was made to allow the reopening to let more humanitarian aid into the besieged strip.

Biden shares photo of call with Netanyahu

Friday 5 April 2024 00:10 , Josh Marcus

Joe Biden on Thursday shared a photo of his recent high-stakes call with Benjamin Netanyahu, the first between the two men since seven World Central Kitchen aid workers were killed this week by an Israeli air strike in Gaza.

Read more on their conversation from Andrew Feinberg and Richard Hall.

Biden warns Netanyahu US support for Gaza war depends on Israel protecting civilians

Mourners in Poland celebrate World Central Kitchen worker killed in IDF strike

Thursday 4 April 2024 23:55 , Josh Marcus

Mourners gathered in the Polish city of Przemysl on Thursday to pay tribute to Damian Sobol, 35, a World Central Kitchen humanitarian worker who was killed by the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza on Monday in an airstrike.

“There is no consent for killing innocent people, let’s remember this and let’s remember that Damian was helping so that other people would not die of hunger,” Waldemar, a local who works with Ukrainian refugees and previously worked with Sobol, told broadcaster TVN.

“We started here as volunteers. Damian set off further on the volunteering path and unfortunately was murdered by Israeli services.”

Mourners placed candles and flowers in a central plaza on Thursday in honour of Sobol.

Biden and Netanyahu didn’t discuss ‘disaster’ of potential Rafah invasion

Thursday 4 April 2024 23:40 , Josh Marcus

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US president Joe Biden reportedly did not discuss the IDF’s hinted-at invasion of Rafah during their call on Thursday.

A US official told Al Jazeera that the US president “refused” to broach the topic.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has said it will be impossible to defeat Hamas without entering the southern Gazan city, where over 1m people are now living, many of whom were told by the IDF to evacuate south at the beginning of the war with Hamas.

US officials, meanwhile, have reportedly warned that an invasion of Rafah would be a “disaster” and argued for alternative options.

Over 600 UK legal experts call on UK to halt arms transfers to Israel

Thursday 4 April 2024 23:11 , Josh Marcus

A group of over 600 UK legal experts is calling on the government to suspend weapons transfers to Israel, amid increasing scrunity of the thousands of civilians killed in the IDF’s campaign against Hamas.

“At least 32,623 Palestinians have now been killed and 75,092 injured in Gaza,” the letter reads. “Seventy percent of recorded deaths have consistently been women and children.”

The letter also made mention of the recent strike on World Central Kitchen humanitarian workers.

“Strikes on [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] facilities have led to the deaths of 400 people seeking shelter under the UN flag,” the letter continues. “At least 165 employees of the [UNRWA] workers have been killed. 18 In addition to UNRWA staff, other humanitarian workers and volunteers have been killed.”

Member of Netanyahu’s war cabinet calls for early elections

Thursday 4 April 2024 22:58 , Josh Marcus

A member of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet has called for early elections, further ratcheting up the domestic pressure on the wartime leader.

New elections aren’t required until October 2026, but Benny Gantz said earlier elections will stop a “rupture among the people.”

“This agreed-upon date for elections will leave us time to continue the security effort, and it will allow Israeli citizens to know that we will soon need to renew the trust between us,” Mr Gantz said Thursday, The New York Times reports.

Even before the 7 October war, Mr Netanyahu was under intense domestic pressure, facing unprecedented protests in the midst of an attempted judicial reform and a corruption trial.

Trump says Israel ‘losing the PR war’ in Hamas conflict

Thursday 4 April 2024 22:40 , Josh Marcus

Donald Trump has joined the chorus of those criticising Israel this week, though from a slightly different angle than most.

Israel’s strike on a convoy of World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza has inspired widespread shock and outrage, but Mr Trump’s issue appears to be more with how the IDF is marketing its campaign to the world.

During a Thursday interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee urged Israel to finish its conflict quickly and said the country was losing world opinion the more “heinous” videos went public of it destroying buildings and harming civilians in Gaza.

“You’ve got to get it over with, and you have to get back to normalcy. And I’m not sure that I’m loving the way they’re doing it, because you’ve got to have victory. You have to have a victory, and it’s taking a long time,” Mr Trump said.

“And the other thing is I hate, they put out tapes all the time,” he continued. “Every night, they’re releasing tapes of a building falling down. They shouldn’t be releasing tapes like that. They’re doing, that’s why they’re losing the PR war. They, Israel is absolutely losing the PR war.”

The whole transcript of the interview can be found here.