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White House outraged aid workers killed in IDF strike; Biden calls José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen

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(WASHINGTON) — The White House said Tuesday it is “outraged” after a strike by Israel Defense Forces killed seven aid workers with the World Central Kitchen who were on the ground in Gaza to provide relief to civilians caught in the conflict.

President Joe Biden called Chef José Andrés, the founder of World Central Kitchen, to express his condolences and that he was “heartbroken” by the news, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

“The president conveyed he is grieving with the entire World Central Kitchen family,” she said. “The president felt it was important to recognize the tremendous contribution World Central Kitchen has made to the people in Gaza and people around the world.”

Biden also conveyed to Andrés that “he will make clear to Israel that humanitarian aid workers must be protected,” Jean-Pierre said.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, who joined Tuesday’s press briefing, offered the administration’s strongest condemnation yet of the IDF attack.

“We were outraged to learn of an IDF strike that killed a number of civilian humanitarian workers yesterday from the World Central Kitchen, which has been relentless in working to get food to those who are hungry in Gaza, and quite frankly, around the world,” Kirby said. “We send our deepest condolences to their families and loved ones.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the strike a “tragic incident” and unintentional. The food-relief charity has paused its work in Gaza after the attack.

International organizations have warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with a report in mid-March noting that famine is “imminent” in northern Gaza, as the entire population of the strip experiences high levels of food insecurity amid the ongoing war.

Kirby said a preliminary IDF investigation is expected to be completed Tuesday but they also expect a “broader” probe of the strike to be conducted.

“We hope that those findings will be made public, and that there is appropriate accountability held,” he said, though he noted there is no evidence IDF deliberately targeted World Central Kitchen workers.

More than 200 aid workers have been killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict, Kirby said, who called the war one of the “worst” for such workers in recent history.

World Central Kitchen said in a statement that their team was traveling in clearly marked armored cars in a deconflicted zone when the vehicles were hit, despite the workers having coordinated movements with the IDF.

One of the aid workers killed was a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, the World Central Kitchen said. The other victims were from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom and Palestine.

“This incident is emblematic of a larger problem and evidence of why distribution of aid in Gaza has been so challenging,” Kirby said of the World Central Kitchen strike. “But beyond the strike, what is clear is that the IDF must do much more … to improve deconfliction processes so that civilians and humanitarian aid workers are protected.”

But Kirby again rejected the idea of conditioning military aid on Israel, as some U.S. lawmakers have called for as the humanitarian crisis inside Gaza continues to grow.

“They’re still under the viable threat of Hamas,” Kirby said. “We’re still gonna make sure that they can defend themselves and that the 7th of October doesn’t happen again. That doesn’t mean that it’s a free pass, that we look the other way when something like this happens, or that we aren’t and haven’t since the beginning of the conflict urge the Israelis to be more precise, to be more careful.”

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