Apr 2, 2024 - World

Scoop: UAE pauses Gaza aid route support after Israeli strike kills humanitarian workers

Residents inspect the damaged vehicle damaged vehicle carrying Western employees after Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on April 02, 2024.

Residents inspect the damaged vehicle carrying World Central Kitchen employees after anIsraeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on Apr. 02, 2024. Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates is pausing its involvement in the maritime aid corridor to Gaza until Israel assures aid workers in the enclave will be protected, sources close to the UAE government told Axios.

Why it matters: The announcement comes after seven humanitarian workers with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Monday. The UAE is the main funder of the organization's aid route that has been leading efforts to get food by sea to Gaza, which the United Nations has warned is on the verge of famine.

  • The Emiratis handle much of the coordination with the Israeli government for the humanitarian mission, which has delivered tons of supplies to the enclave via a ship from Cyprus over the past few weeks.

Driving the news: On Monday, seven staff members of chef José Andrés' WCK were killed by an Israeli air strike on an aid convoy as it delivered supplies from the landing area on the Gaza coast to a warehouse in the town of Dier al-Balah in the center of the enclave.

  • "Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route," World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore said in a statement early Tuesday morning.
  • The organization said it was pausing its operations in the area after the attack.
  • "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," the statement said.

State of play: The sources close to the UAE government told Axios the UAE is pausing its humanitarian efforts via the maritime corridor pending a full investigation and assurances from Israel regarding the safety of humanitarian workers.

  • The UAE foreign ministry condemned the Israeli strike on the WCK convoy.

What they're saying: "The UAE holds Israel fully responsible for this dangerous development, and calls for an urgent, independent and transparent investigation, and punishment of those who have committed this heinous crime in contravention of international humanitarian law," the director for strategic communications in the Emirati foreign ministry Afra al-Hameli said in a statement.

  • The UAE and Cyprus, which is hosting the base of operations for the WCK mission to Gaza, expressed in a joint statement their "profound condemnation" of Israel's strike.
  • "The UAE, Cyprus and World Central Kitchen through the Amalthea Initiative aim to provide urgent humanitarian aid and supplies to the Gaza Strip to avert a famine in northern Gaza and prevent further suffering in the Strip, through the delivery and safe distribution of food supplies," the statement said.
  • The two countries emphasized that the "humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza requires the adoption of such a collective international approach to immediately mitigate the threat to innocent lives, by ensuring urgent, safe, unhindered, and sustainable delivery of aid."
  • "It is therefore imperative that Israel must exercise its responsibility to protect humanitarian workers who should be able to carry out this vital work safely and without fear of losing their lives," the joint statement said.

The latest: Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant in a meeting Tuesday with senior defense officials said Israel will "immediately investigate the circumstances of the incident" and brief international organizations on the details, the defense ministry said in a statement.

  • Israel will also establish a "platform that enables coordination between the IDF's Southern Command and international organizations vis-à-vis the distribution of aid" and allocate "appropriate resources" for aid distribution.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinked at a press conference in Paris on Tuesday said the U.S. expressed concern to the Israeli government about the targeting of the WCK convoy and asked for a swift investigation around the incident.
  • Britain summoned the Israeli ambassador to the UK, the foreign ministry said. UK Minister for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell said he "set out the government's unequivocal condemnation of the appalling killing" of the aid workers and "requested a quick and transparent investigation, shared with the international community, and full accountability."
  • British Foreign Minister David Cameron said he told Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz that the deaths of the "aid workers, including three British Nationals, are completely unacceptable." He added: "Israel must urgently explain how this happened and make major changes to ensure safety of aid workers on the ground."

Zoom out: The U.S., the UN and many aid organizations have been urging Israel's government for months to do more to improve its deconfliction mechanisms to avoid targeting aid convoys.

  • The Biden administration raised this issue on a very high level with the Israeli government several times, but there was little change on the ground, U.S. officials say.
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) last week ordered Israel to allow unimpeded access for humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
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