Apr 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Israel faces outrage from Democrats over strike that killed aid workers

A burned out car with several white "World Central Kitchen" logos.

A vehicle in Deir Al-Balah on April 2, where employees from the World Central Kitchen were killed by an Israeli airstrike, according to the NGO. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Democrats in Congress are outraged after an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) strike killed seven humanitarian workers from José Andrés' World Central Kitchen (WCK) in Gaza.

Why it matters: Israel's rift with Democratic lawmakers is growing wider, and some are calling for the U.S. to rethink its military aid policy.

  • "It's time to pull the plug on unconditional aid to Israel. They have not been good stewards of our money," one House Democrat who is a longstanding supporter of Israel told Axios.

Driving the news: World Central Kitchen said in a statement on Tuesday that seven of its workers were killed by an IDF strike after unloading food aid in Deir al-Balah.

  • "The WCK team was traveling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle," the statement said, adding that the team's movements were coordinated with the IDF.
  • The workers were Australian, Polish, British, Palestinian and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, the statement said.

What they're saying: "The Netanyahu government is forfeiting and squandering every day its moral standing and the support of the world which existed after the October 7 atrocities perpetrated by Hamas," Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who is Jewish, said in a statement.

  • "The death and destruction should have stopped months ago," Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), another Jewish progressive told Axios in statement.
  • Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) said in a statement to Axios it is "time for Israel to cease this indiscriminate bombing campaign with no endgame in sight and allow for humanitarian aid to prevent needless suffering."
  • Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) called the strike "an abhorrent act of indiscriminate bombing," adding, "It is indefensible and a further dark chapter for the Netanyahu government."

Between the lines: Schakowsky referenced a letter she and other Democrats sent to President Biden last month. It urged him enforce rules restricting U.S. weapons transfers to countries that impede humanitarian aid.

  • "So long as the Israeli government hinders the entry of U.S. humanitarian aid into Gaza, it is in violation of this law and should not receive offensive aid from the U.S.," she said.
  • The House Democrat who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the U.S. has "relied upon Netanyahu's statements that civilians are not targeted, and that harm to civilians has come about because of Hamas using them as human shields."
  • "This claim cannot be made in connection with the horrific deaths of humanitarians working with WCK," the lawmaker said. "This is shameful."

More moderate and pro-Israel Democrats took a less aggressive posture.

  • "I look forward to the results of Israel's announced investigation and stress that it must be comprehensive and transparent, and that those responsible for this failure must be held to account," said Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.).
  • Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said the IDF "has many newly called up soldiers, obviously many are not living up to the proficiency we've been led to expect of them."
  • "In this situation, the World Kitchen information must not have been relayed to the striking forces or they didn't follow instructions," Cohen said. "Either way it's heartbreaking."

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