Analysis. More than 200 aid workers have been killed since October 7: 174 worked for the United Nations, five for Doctors Without Borders.

No lives matter in Netanyahu’s kill zones

Australian Lalzawmi Frankcom, known as Zomi, was the most lively and enthusiastic of the members of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) NGO who worked here in Gaza. She had helped populations in need around the world, and did not hide her passion for making videos that she regularly posted online. Meri Calvelli, a longtime Italian aid worker in Gaza who worked for ACS, had met her a couple of weeks ago in Cairo: “We exchanged a few words in WCK’s Egyptian office, about the work to be done in Gaza and the possibility of doing some projects together to help feed the people of Gaza. She seemed like a very motivated girl,” Calvelli told il manifesto on Tuesday.

Zomi was part of the group of seven WCK aid workers – three British, one Australian, one Polish, one with dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship, and one Palestinian – who were killed in the night between Monday and Tuesday by an Israeli drone that fired at their cars three times. This massacre confirmed once more that all civilian lives in Gaza are constantly hanging by a thread in the face of powerful armed forces that have everything under surveillance. Certain areas of the Strip, unilaterally declared “combat zones” by Israel, are literally kill zones, where the military shoots anything that moves without hesitating for a second. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz also denounced this fact a few days ago.

On Tuesday, international condemnations and criticism grew more and more as the hours passed. From the U.S. to Australia to Brussels, requests have come in to investigate the incident. But Prime Minister Netanyahu wasted no time to preemptively offer Israel’s standard explanation for this massacre of aid workers, the same they have been using in some time: it was a “tragic event,” the Israeli premier said, “in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip … This happens in war. We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments.” Similar statements were made by Defense Minister Gallant. The Israeli investigation will be led by Reserve General Yoav Har Even. On Tuesday, the theory that there was actually an “armed terrorist” present in the convoy of three targeted cars was already being spread.

The World Central Kitchen is a Hispanic-American NGO founded by chef Jose Andrès, which has a hundred cooking stations and food warehouses throughout Gaza. It offers tens of thousands of hot meals everyday to as many Palestinians. A few weeks ago, it had made news around the world for its Safeena project, which provides food supplies to Gaza via a sea corridor from Cyprus to the Strip. The latest shipment arrived two days ago. The WCK volunteers were escorting a truck with 100 tons of food to a warehouse in Deir al Balah. The cars were clearly marked on the roof and sides as belonging to WCK, and the aid workers had agreed on the route with the Israeli army. But, according to a version reported by Haaretz, the operations room overseeing the convoy raised the alarm about the alleged presence of a gunman with the volunteers. Minutes later, the three cars left the warehouse and someone from the operations room ordered the operators of a Hermes 450 drone to attack one of the cars with a missile. A few moments later, all hell broke loose. Some passengers were seen getting out of the hit car and moving to one of the other two cars. A few seconds later, another missile hit their car. The third car in the convoy approached and the passengers began to transfer the wounded survivors of the second attack to it. A third missile hit them, killing all seven volunteers. There were no “armed terrorists” anywhere to be seen. The bodies of the six foreign volunteers who were killed were transported to Egypt. The Palestinian, Saif Abu Taha, was buried in Gaza. More than 200 aid workers have been killed since October 7: 174 worked for the United Nations, five for Doctors Without Borders.

World Central Kitchen executives announced a temporary suspension of operations in Gaza, and another NGO, Anera, immediately did the same. More than half of the cargo that arrived from Cyprus was sent back to Larnaca. “This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER,” protested WCK spokeswoman Linda Roth. “This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,” added Erin Gore, chief executive of the NGO. The alleged “tragic mistake” is likely to be very costly to Israel’s international image, as it bombed an organization that was indirectly useful to its strategy in Gaza. The WCK was seen by the Israeli war cabinet as a viable alternative to the refugee agency UNRWA (UN), and its readiness to ship humanitarian aid by sea was welcomed by the military higher-ups. The step backward the NGO took after Monday’s attack threatens despair for tens of thousands of Palestinians dependent on WCK for their daily food.

Meanwhile, the scale of what will be needed for Gaza’s reconstruction is shocking. A World Bank report suggests that some 26 million tons of debris and rubble will have to be moved. More than one million people are homeless, and 75 percent of the population is displaced. 84% of sanitation facilities have been damaged or destroyed. The water and sanitation system has almost collapsed, working at less than 5% to provide water. The education system is at a standstill and 100% of children are not going to school. The Education Minister reported that since October 7, 6,050 children and youth have been killed by Israeli raids, and 408 schools have been severely damaged.

As the hours pass, the case of the anti-Al Jazeera law passed two days ago by the Knesset is taking on an international dimension, together with PM Netanyahu’s intention to use it to close the Jerusalem office of the Qatari broadcaster, accused of being a “voice for terrorists.” Al Jazeera reacted by denouncing Netanyahu’s “frantic campaign” as being a “dangerous [and] ludicrous lie.” “Such slanderous accusations will not deter us from continuing our bold and professional coverage, and reserves the right to pursue every legal step,” Al Jazeera continued.

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