14 May 2024, 18:47

HRW says Israeli forces repeatedly target aid workers in Gaza

JERUSALEM, May 14, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that Israel had repeatedly targeted known aid worker locations in Gaza, even after their coordinates were provided to Israeli authorities to ensure their protection.

The rights watchdog said that it had identified eight cases where aid convoys and premises were targeted, killing at least 15 people, including two children.

They are among more than 250 aid workers who have been killed in Gaza since the war erupted more than seven months ago, according to UN figures.

In all eight cases, the organisations had provided the coordinates to Israeli authorities, HRW said.

This reveals "fundamental flaws with the so-called deconfliction system, meant to protect aid workers and allow them to safely deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance in Gaza", it said. 

The bloodiest ever Gaza war erupted after Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, which killed more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, 128 of whom Israel estimates remain in Gaza, including 36 the military says are dead.

Israel's relentless bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have since killed at least 35,173 people, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The war and siege have triggered a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with the UN repeatedly lamenting aid restrictions even as famine is looming in the north. 

- 'Over and over again' -

"On one hand, Israel is blocking access to critical lifesaving humanitarian provisions and on the other, attacking convoys that are delivering some of the small amount that they are allowing in," Belkis Wille, HRW's associate crisis, conflict and arms director, said in Tuesday's statement.

HRW highlighted the case of the World Central Kitchen, a US-based charity who saw seven of its aid workers killed by an Israeli strike on their convoy on April 1.

This was not an isolated "mistake", HRW said, pointing to the other seven cases it had identified where GPS coordinates of aid convoys and premises had been sent to Israeli authorities, only to see them attacked by Israeli forces "without any warning".

"Israel's allies need to recognise that these attacks that have killed aid workers have happened over and over again, and they need to stop," Wille said. 

Among the other seven attacks listed were three on Doctors Without Borders convoys and premises, and two on convoys and facilities belonging to UNRWA, the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees.

All of the organisations who had seen structures and staff affected had told HRW that, as far as they knew, "there were no military targets in the area at the time of the attack".

"If confirmed, this would make the attacks unlawfully indiscriminate or unlawful for having failed to take sufficient precautions to ensure the target was military," HRW said.

On Monday, a UN staff member was killed and another injured when their vehicle was struck in Rafah in southern Gaza, with the UN saying it had conveyed the clearly-marked vehicle's movements to Israeli authorities in advance.

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