Biden says Israel is not doing enough to protect aid workers and calls for inquiry

<span>Joe Biden in Raleigh, North Carolina, on 26 March 2024.</span><span>Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters</span>
Joe Biden in Raleigh, North Carolina, on 26 March 2024.Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Joe Biden has said that Israel is not doing enough to protect aid workers and has called for a swift investigation into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) drone attack in Gaza which killed seven people working for the World Central Kitchen (WCK) charity.

“This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed,” the US president said, in comments that were highly critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Related: Gaza aid convoy strike: what happened and who were the victims?

The strike on the WCK convoy killed citizens of Australia, Britain and Poland as well as Palestinians and a dual citizen of the US and Canada. Early on Wednesday, the IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi put the strike down to “misidentification”, adding that the “the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers,” and that it was a mistake that should not have happened.

Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the aid workers’ deaths and highlighted that this was not a standalone incident.

“This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult – because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians … Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians.”

More than 200 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since the war between Israel and Hamas began after the militant group’s attack on Israeli communities on 7 October, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s top official for the coordination of humanitarian aid in Gaza, said on Tuesday.

The attack on WCK was not an “isolated incident”, he added, pointing out that the number of humanitarians killed in the last six months in Gaza was nearly three times as high as the death toll recorded in any other single conflict in a year.

On Tuesday, WCK named Jacob Flickinger as the US-Canada dual citizen working for the aid group who was killed in the attack.

In the aftermath of the drone attack, several charities including WCK announced they would suspend operations in Gaza, leading to fears that the humanitarian catastrophe in the territory would worsen.

One of the charities, Aneran, said the deaths of the WCK workers led their team to conclude that “delivering aid safely is no longer feasible”.

According to Oxfam, since December, the number of people in Gaza facing “catastrophic levels” of hunger has nearly doubled. At least 27 children have died of malnutrition, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Biden’s criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza has grown over recent weeks and his frustration with Benjamin Netanyahu has become increasingly visible.

Last month Biden said the Israeli prime minister “must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken” in Gaza and that his stance was detrimental to Israel’s interests.

The attack on the WCK aid convoy drew condemnation from leaders around the world. UK prime minister Rishi Sunak called for an urgent investigation into the attack and told Netanyahu in a conversation that far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians had lost their lives in Gaza.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese said he had demanded “full accountability” over the incident and “conveyed to Prime Minister Netanyahu in very clear terms that Australians were outraged” by the death of the Australian aid worker.