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Ana Maria Cornea / Gavel Media

Tensions Rise Between Israel and Poland as IDF Strike Kills 7 Aid Workers

In what it has called a “mistake,” Israeli airstrikes killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza. One of these workers was a Polish man named Damian Soból, who had volunteered in Ukraine and Turkey as well. Friends of Soból, including Krzysztof Butra, have commented on Soból’s immense fortitude and determination to help others.

Concerning Soból’s strong character, Butra said, “He always said if not him, then who? Someone has to go there, someone has to help these people.” 

World Central Kitchen is a humanitarian organization that provides food relief to those who are dealing with the results of natural disasters or who are in the midst of conflict. In Gaza, it has provided meals to more than 43 million Palestinians. This work is paramount since around 70% of people in northern Gaza are experiencing catastrophic hunger, and famine is imminent. They have not assisted only Palestinians affected by this crisis but have provided aid to displaced Israelis as well. 

Following the death of the seven workers, World Central Kitchen announced that it was suspending its presence in the Gaza Strip. Without its help, the famine will only continue to worsen, and the death toll will only continue to rise. 

The incident occurred when two armored cars, which were marked with the World Central Kitchen logo, were in a deconflicted zone. The workers had just finished unloading 100 tons of food aid that were brought by ship, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had been made aware of the plan and movements of the group.

In response to condemnations of Israel’s supposed intentional murder of the seven aid workers, Yacov Livne, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, posted on social media that “anti-Semites will always remain anti-Semites, and Israel will remain a democratic Jewish state that fights for its right to exist. Also for the good of the entire Western world.” 

Livne’s statement damaged already-strained ties between Israel and Poland, as the countries had disagreements for years regarding Polish behavior during the Holocaust. The ambassador’s comments elicited a response from Polish president Andrzej Duda, who said, “The statements of the Israeli ambassador to our country are – let me put this as delicately as possible – not very fortunate and, in short, outrageous.”

Livne was then summoned to a meeting to discuss what had happened in Gaza. In this meeting with Polish officials, Livne apologized for the deaths of the aid workers and said that “Israel is fully committed to a transparent and thorough investigation of this grave tragedy.” 

A further inquiry by Israel of the event led to the firing of two officers and the reprimanding of commanders. The military recognized their culpability, having 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.”

A recognition of its misidentification is not enough, as a concerted effort by Israel to mitigate the number of civilians affected by this conflict is necessary going forward. President of the United States Joe Biden has condemned Israel’s lack of initiative in defending the transportation of aid, having said, “Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.”

The IDF has stated that it is committed to “avoiding harming civilians” in its struggle against Hamas, yet the number of civilians having been displaced, injured, or murdered brings this commitment into question. 

It is not only through ground assaults and bombings that they suffer but through being cut off from vital infrastructure. Access to food, water, and medicine is almost entirely cut off, leaving those in Gaza to live off of little amounts of aid that is let through by Israel.

Israel’s unreasonable procedures and inspections, which are said to solely be in place to prevent Hamas from gaining control of military weapons, cause major backup and delay in the delivery of aid. Even when aid is finally let through, its safe passage through the areas is not guaranteed, as seen with the death of the World Central Kitchen workers. 

If Israel is as dedicated to ensuring the survival of innocents as they claim, their restrictions surrounding the flow of aid to Gaza will loosen, and the ensured protection of these transports will increase. 

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