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After Strike, Aid Groups in Gaza Are More Fearful Than Ever


Aid groups in Gaza said on Tuesday that they were more concerned than ever about the safety of their staff members there after seven World Central Kitchen workers were killed in an airstrike, saying that the deaths underscored the growing challenges of meeting Palestinians’ basic needs.

Humanitarian workers have been killed throughout the war in Gaza. Since the war started, 176 workers for UNRWA, the United Nations body that provides aid to Palestinians, have been killed, including in the line of duty, said Juliette Touma, the agency’s director of communications. Several other aid groups say their staff members have been killed in airstrikes.

But the latest deaths have raised new alarms. World Central Kitchen paused its operations there on Tuesday, saying it had coordinated the movements of the convoy that was struck with the Israeli military. The military said it was investigating the episode.

As they assessed their future plans, aid groups urged the Israeli authorities to adhere to the international laws that protect humanitarian workers.

“Everybody feels endangered now,” said Michael Capponi, the founder of Global Empowerment Mission, a nonprofit aid group distributing tents, sleeping bags, medical equipment and food to Palestinians in Gaza.

Mr. Capponi said he was reconsidering his plans to travel to Gaza next week. Some staff members, who had been communicating daily with the World Central Kitchen workers who died, “basically want to pack up and go home now,” he said, though there were no firm plans for them to leave.

“There need to be guarantees to the international N.G.O. community that we are safe doing this work that we do, which is critical,” Mr. Capponi added. He said it was unacceptable that aid workers were killed even after going through the United Nations’ “deconfliction” process, which is supposed to protect humanitarian workers by informing the military about their activities.

Tess Ingram, a UNICEF spokeswoman temporarily based in Gaza, said the notification system that was meant to keep workers safe was not functioning, leaving them vulnerable.

“It underscores what life is like here in Gaza, not just for aid workers but for everybody,” she said. “There’s nowhere safe, even when you do everything right.”

She added that the strike had broader implications for humanitarian groups’ ability to provide food aid. World Central Kitchen was not only feeding Gazans directly, it was also supplying hospitals with meals as well, she said.

Ms. Ingram said she hoped that the strike would “push the world to recognize that what is happening here is not OK.”

Aseel Baidoun, a spokeswoman for Medical Aid for Palestinians, a British group, said her organization was concerned about the safety of its next medical mission to Gaza, slated for later this week. Several members of an aid team were injured in an Israeli strike in January, the group said.

“We thought that armored cars and deconfliction processes would actually protect doctors,” said Ms. Baidoun, who is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “But now we don’t know how to protect our missions and our colleagues.”

Save the Children, which distributes food, water, medical supplies and toiletries in Gaza, also urged the parties of the conflict to adhere to the international laws protecting humanitarian workers. The group said a local staff member was killed in an Israeli airstrike in December.

“The news of the attack is horrific — it’s a nightmare come true for us,” said Soraya Ali, a spokeswoman for the group. “We know unfortunately that Gaza right now is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a humanitarian worker.”



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