Outrage over aid worker killings fuels calls to stop UK arms sales to Israel

Israel faces global condemnation after its airstrike in Gaza killed seven aid workers in a convoy of cars belonging to an international charity.

The attack on aid vehicles marked with the World Central Kitchen (WCK) logo has sparked outrage over Israel’s targeting methods and accusations that it disregards civilian life.

With three of the aid workers killed from Britain, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing growing pressure to halt arms sales to Israel from both politicians and the public. 

In the wake of the attack, some charities have paused operations while they assess the security risks. It has sparked grave concerns over aid flows to Gaza, which teeters on the brink of famine. 

José Andrés, founder WCK, accused Israeli forces of systematically targeting the workers “car by car.”

“Even if we were not in coordination with the (Israeli army), no democratic country and no military can be targeting civilians and humanitarians,” he said.

WCK said its workers were travelling in a “deconflicted zone” in charity-branded cars when they were targeted by Israel, even though they had shared their coordinates with the military 

According to a Haaretz report citing defence sources, an Israeli drone fired three missiles. One car was hit first, and then passengers switched to the remaining two before another missile was fired. Occupants from the third car apparently tried to rescue those in the second car when Israel targeted them again with the third missile.

The three British nationals killed were security advisors John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby. 

The other victims were Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Australian Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, American-Canadian Jacob Flickinger, and Pole Damian Sobol.

Sunak called for an urgent investigation into the killings, while US President Joe Biden condemned the killings and said Israel is not doing enough to protect Palestinians.

The Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, expressed his “anger and concern” to Israel’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

In some of the strongest criticism, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez dismissed Israel’s justifications as “insufficient” and “unacceptable.” 

Netanyahu had called it “a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants”, adding such casualties “happen in war” while pledging an investigation.

Calls to stop arms sales

The deadly strike has intensified calls across Britain’s political spectrum to suspend arms exports to Israel. 

The Liberal Democrats are demanding a halt to sales following the attacks, while the Scottish National Party wants Parliament recalled from its Easter recess before April 15 to urgently debate the issue. 

Labour says sales should stop if government lawyers deem Israel is at risk of violating international law.

Speaking to the BBC, former national security advisor Lord Ricketts advocated an arms embargo, arguing it would send “a powerful message” and trigger a similar debate in the United States over military aid to Israel. 

“I think there’s abundant evidence now that Israel hasn’t been taking enough care to fulfil its obligations on the safety of civilians,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Conservative MP Paul Bristow said British weapons potentially being used to kill innocent Gazans “turns the stomach,” with the deaths of British aid workers representing “a line in the sand.” Ex-Tory minister Sir Alan Duncan also backed suspending sales, writing in The Independent that further exports “cannot be justified.”

Meanwhile, a YouGov poll before the aid worker killings already showed a majority of Britons favoured banning arms sales to Israel. The research, commissioned by Action for Humanity, also shows that most people believe Israel’s Gaza onslaught violates human rights. 

Tributes pour in 

The family of Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom mourned the loss of their “brave and beloved” daughter, who was “killed doing the work she loves.” They remembered her as “a kind, selfless and outstanding human being” dedicated to “helping others in their time of need”.

Abu Taha’s brothers described him as eager to assist his fellow Palestinians. 

James Kirby’s family said he “was always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone, even in the face of senseless violence.”

John Chapman’s family expressed they were “devastated to have lost John, who was killed in Gaza. He died trying to help people and was subject to an inhumane act.” 

A walking vigil took place in Cornwall to honour local aid worker James Henderson.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help Jacob Flickinger’s family with funeral arrangements, as he was the “sole financial provider.” Flickinger was the father of a one-year-old baby boy.

The circumstances surrounding the killings have renewed scrutiny of Israel’s targeting methods and attacks on civilians. 

The six-month onslaught has seen over 200 aid workers killed, along with medical personnel, journalists and civil response staff. Deadly strikes have included the February shelling of a UN food aid truck.

According to Palestinian health officials, at least 400 Palestinians trying to access aid have been killed by Israeli shelling, including several policemen working to secure food deliveries.

Last week, the International Court of Justice issued a legally binding order for Israel to “ensure, without delay,” humanitarian essentials like food, water, and electricity reach Gaza.


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