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Our View: Food aid workers best of us humans

Not providing security for them is a war crime

Read tributes to the seven international aid workers from chef José Andrés’ Washington, D.C.-based World Central Kitchen, killed in an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, Gaza. It’s obvious they were the best of us humans.

Selfless, outstanding, brave and compassionate, each one has left deep voids in their families. Each one believed in alleviating the suffering of strangers, unconditionally and devoid of ulterior motive.

Three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian were killed. John Chapman, James Kirby, James Henderson, Zomi Frankcom, Damian Sobol, Jacob Flickinger and Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha.

Although more than 32,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis were confirmed dead by early March, it’s the killing of these seven aid workers that is quickly changing minds and the trajectory of this war.

Now, it’s become unreasonable for the U.S. to justify additional firepower for Israel.

The aid convoy was hit multiple times in an apparent mistake that followed a misidentification at night. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the airstrike “tragic”; the Israeli Defense Forces said it is “conducting a thorough review.”

But after months of relentless bombing and leveling of Gaza, a natural assumption is that the attack came out of carelessness.

Devastating errors are consequences of war. But as President Joe Biden said, Israel “has not done enough to protect aid workers” in Gaza. Since October, 196 of them, most with the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, have been killed.

Who are we if we don’t acknowledge that wars are the dirty business between heads of state, or governments and terrorist groups, not innocent people caught in the middle?

Aid workers are a special breed – action-oriented, evenhanded, in it to help others and, in the case of WCK workers, showing up to deliver nutritious comfort food prepared with care. They’re not pulled into the stories of old wrongs and unfair histories, but rather showing up to meet war victims’ most basic needs.

No matter your side in this war. Those willing to enter war zones to help some of the most vulnerable and displaced on this planet deserve respect and protection.

One reason for the Geneva Conventions of 1949 was to legitimize the role of impartial humanitarian organizations. International political consensus formed around ensuring the delivery of lifesaving assistance during wartime.

Not providing security for aid workers is a war crime.

But in Gaza, rather than noncombatants removed from the equation, innocent civilians are dead center, starting with the taking of Israeli hostages. In return, Israel’s response has not spared Palestinians and their neighborhoods.

Now, this.

Patience has worn thin in the U.S. and around the world, including in Israel, where sizable demonstrations are demanding Netanyahu’s resignation and early elections for a new parliament. Biden said he’s “outraged and heartbroken” by the deaths, and IDF’s investigation “must be swift.” We’ll see how the president navigates this political minefield.

Andrés accused Israel of using food as a weapon.

Before stopping operations, WCK was nimble, finding corridors in well-labeled vehicles after receiving permission from the Israeli government. It delivered 43 million meals to Gazans since the start of the war.

The aid workers killed look like our friends, neighbors and co-workers. Decent humans with the heart, wisdom and goodwill to look beyond politics and only see those in desperate need.

People who possessed very bright lights.