Apr 5, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats want external probe of Israeli strike on aid workers

A World Central Kitchen banner hanging up on a concrete wall in Deir al Balah, Gaza with a child walking by.

The World Central Kitchen aid center in Deir al Balah, Gaza. Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images.

Democratic members of Congress are calling for U.S. or third-party investigation into an Israeli strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen staffers.

Why it matters: The Israeli Defense Force concluded that the attack was a "serious violation" of its rules, but some lawmakers view the internal probe as inherently untrustworthy.

  • "I don't know if ... in the middle of a war, you can consider the IDF the most unbiased source to do an investigation," Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) told Axios.
  • World Central Kitchen has demanded an independent investigation and called for Australia, Canada, the U.S., Poland, and the U.K. to join the call.

The latest: The IDF on Friday announced that two senior officers were dismissed and three were reprimanded over the strike, Axios' Barak Ravid reported.

  • "Those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives and not WCK employees," the IDF said.
  • "The strike on the aid vehicles is a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the Standard Operating Procedures."

What they're saying: "The United States should join in the call for an independent and international investigation into Monday's strike on World Central Kitchen volunteers," Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement.

  • Pocan, a leading progressive, said in an interview, "We have to do our own investigation on this, clearly … much more aggressive due diligence is required on behalf of the United States."
  • An external probe is "the best way to make sure nobody doubts the findings," Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a top House Democrat, told Axios.
  • Several Jewish progressives also told Axios they support an outside probe. "There must be an independent and thorough review of all the circumstances," said Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.).

Zoom in: Pocan, McGovern and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) are circulating a letter among their Democratic colleagues calling for President Biden to have his administration open a probe into the incident.

  • They wrote: "We strongly urge your administration to conduct a thorough investigation into this airstrike to determine how the aid convoy could have been mistakenly targeted despite coordinating their movements with the Israeli military and traveling in clearly marked vehicles."

Between the lines: A third party investigation "may end up basically saying the same thing that the Israeli government is saying," McGovern said.

  • Still, he added, "given all that has transpired ... an independent investigation would be the best way to proceed."

Zoom out: The World Central Kitchen has intensified a reckoning between Israel and Democrats in the U.S., who have been facing pressure to hold the country more to account for the mounting death toll in Gaza.

  • "The intensity of people concerned on Gaza is the strongest I've seen," Pocan told Axios after two weeks home in his district.
  • Pocan said he conducted five town halls and that Gaza, along with Ukraine, was the top issue people brought up: "These were in Republican counties, small rural communities. I did not expect [it]. This was not a campus."
  • In the aftermath of the strike, President Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that, unless serious changes are made in Gaza, the U.S. "won't be able to support" Israel.
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