UAE and several charities pause Gaza relief until Israel can guarantee safety of aid workers

The United Arab Emirates joined several aid organisations in pausing humanitarian relief work in Gaza after an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers delivering food to Palestinians.

The UAE said it would suspend its work on sea-borne aid through a maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza until Israel guaranteed the safety of aid workers and investigated Monday’s attack on the workers of World Central Kitchen (WCK), an unnamed UAE official told Reuters.

The "hero" workers were returning from coordinating an aid shipment in central Gaza when they were struck by Israeli forces, the charity said. Their killing drew widespread condemnation, including by Israel’s allies.

The UAE was financing, and WCK organising, seaborne aid shipments to Gaza after Israel last month eased a 17-year naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave to allow desperately needed humanitarian aid from Cyprus to reach starving Palestinians.

The wreckage of one of the WCK vehicles struck by Israeli military (REUTERS)
The wreckage of one of the WCK vehicles struck by Israeli military (REUTERS)

The Gulf nation’s Foreign Ministry condemned the killing of the aid workers and demanded an "urgent, independent and transparent investigation".

It reportedly held Israel responsible for the attack, which took place in the sixth month of its war on Gaza.

The charity's three vehicles had just offloaded 100 tonnes of food aid from a barge arriving from Cyprus when Israel attacked their convoy on Gaza’s coastal road in Deir al-Balah.

WCK said the convoy was hit despite the charity coordinating its movements with the Israeli military and the fact that two of the targeted cars were clearly marked as aid vehicles.

The slain aid workers included British, Polish and Australian nationals, and a dual Canadian-American citizen. These countries have been key supporters of Israel's war on Gaza, which has killed over 32,900 Palestinians thus far.

WCK said that it was pausing all work in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Anera, a partner of WCK and Project HOPE, which provides humanitarian aid across the Middle East, also said on Tuesday that it would take the “unprecedented step” of pausing its work in Gaza. The group has provided an average of 150,000 meals daily in Gaza since the war began in October.

The International Medical Corps, which runs a 140-bed field hospital in Rafah in southern Gaza, said it was “rethinking our process”, including plans to set up another field hospital in Deir al-Balah.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that the country’s military had carried out the “unintended strike ... on innocent people". He said officials were looking into the strike and would work to ensure it did not happen again.

Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant has reportedly launched an investigation and ordered for a joint situation room to enable coordination between the military and aid groups working in Gaza.

The Israeli war on Gaza has killed more than 200 humanitarian aid workers, mostly Palestinians, according to an estimate by the UN, making this the deadliest ever crisis for humanitarian workers.