Middle East

Outrage Over Israeli Attack on NGO Aid Team in Gaza as Humanitarians Push for Renewed Access


This is not an isolated incident,” said Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). “As of 20 March, at least 196 humanitarians had been killed in the OPT since October 2023. This is nearly three times the death toll recorded in any single conflict in a year.”

Mr. McGoldrick repeated appeals to “all parties to the conflict, including the Government of Israel”, to respect international humanitarian law, which prohibits the targeting of humanitarian personnel

“The role of aid workers is to alleviate the suffering of people in crisis. Their safety, along with that of the civilians they serve, must be guaranteed,” he said.

The senior UN official’s comments came after World Central Kitchen reported that an Israeli airstrike was responsible for the deaths of its aid workers in Deir Al-Balah. Following those reports and images of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) vehicle showing a large hole in its roof, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths expressed his outrage at the attack and described the victims are “heroes, killed while trying to feed starving people”.

From the UN World Health Organization (WHO), spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris maintained that the NGO mission had been agreed with the Israeli authorities ahead of time and that the organisation’s car was “well marked, it was very clear: it was World Central Kitchen”.

How many more lives will be lost until there is a ceasefire?”, said UN health agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a tweet. He said WHO was outraged by the killing of humanitarian workers, and safety must be a basic requirement for all who do relief work.

The key UN agency providing relief to Palestinians, UNRWA, tweeted that it was devastated by the killing of seven humanitarians, pointing out that 176 of its own workers have been killed since the violence erupted on 7 October

In a video statement released on Tuesday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the killing of the aid workers by an Israeli strike was unintended and tragic.

Earlier, World Central Kitchen released a statement saying its convoy had been hit “despite coordinating movements” with the Israel military, after the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of food aid at its Deir-al-Balah warehouse brought to Gaza along its newly devised maritime route.

Al-Shifa Hospital: Heart of healthcare ‘ripped out’

Turning to the destruction of Al-Shifa Hospital following a two-week siege by the Israeli military, Dr. Harris said that it had “ripped the heart out of healthcare” in the enclave.

In a stark assessment of the closure of 750-bed Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, WHO maintained that aid teams had been waiting for “days and days” for Israeli permission to reach the stricken facility, where staff and patients endured “horrific levels of violence”.

“We’ve had contact with the staff; the (hospital) directors told us that Al-Shifa has gone, it’s no longer able to function in any way, shape or form” as a medical centre, said Dr. Harris.

Reduced to rubble

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Dr. Harris said that the facility was now “in ruins” and that at least 21 patients had died during the Israeli Defense Forces siege. 

As the situation deteriorated at Al-Shifa, medical staff had to move patients to an office space within the hospital grounds without toilets and where there was no water or food; “they were sharing one bottle of water between 15 people by the end,” the WHO spokesperson continued.

She noted that medical staff “had no means of looking after patients, many of whom were severely injured (or) intensive care-level patients” fitted with urinary catheters but lacking urinary bags. “You can imagine the horror that has been going on,” Dr. Harris said.

If permission is granted on Tuesday to reach Al-Shifa and northern Gaza’s last few remaining health facilities, priorities for WHO teams include bringing medicines, fuel and food and assessing what other supplies are needed and how to provide relief to the most severely injured and sick. 

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Relief supplies provided by World Central Kitchen are loaded onto a boat leaving Italy. (file)

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“We’ve been trying to go for days and days and days, and most of our missions have been rejected,” Dr. Harris said. “We’re not going to be able to provide the things that, say, a functioning hospital needs, but first of all, we need to do an assessment to understand what we can do. Secondly…who needs to be evacuated…where can they go and what can we do to save the lives of those patients (who are) remaining.”

To date, hundreds of healthcare workers have been killed “doing their job”, the WHO official noted, along with 32,000 of civilians, 70 per cent of whom are women and children, amid constant Israeli bombardment launched after Hamas-led terror attacks on Israel on 7 October that left some 1,200 dead and more than 250 taken hostage.

“We are struggling to understand the mortality numbers beyond the numbers that are reported of people who are killed in the bombardment because many people don’t even get to hospital,” the WHO spokesperson said.

Too small to survive

A UN health agency team also intends to visit Kamal Adwan Hospital in Gaza City where there are already dire concerns about the growing number of babies being born too underweight to survive.

The facility is now admitting at least 15 malnourished children per day, and the needs are “getting ever more severe”, Dr. Harris insisted in a renewed call for a ceasefire. “It’s got to be taken seriously – the ceasefire, the UN resolution – the world has agreed a ceasefire must happen. It should have happened months ago, but it must happen now.”

Help for the most dangerously malnourished youngsters who are at the “highest risk of imminent death if not urgently treated” is available at two WHO-partnered specialised nutrition centres in Rafah and another in Kamal Adwan.

Before conflict erupted, Gazans were self-sufficient in food production and only 0.8 per cent of children under the age of five were acutely malnourished. In the northern governorates today, that figure is between 12.4 and 16.5 per cent, WHO reported.

“Different doctors particularly in the maternity hospitals are reporting that they’re seeing a big rise in children born [with] low birth weight and just not surviving the neonatal period because they are born too small,” Dr. Harris said.


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  1. “This tragedy is a stark reminder of the ongoing violence faced by humanitarian workers in conflict zones. It is imperative that all parties involved prioritize the safety of aid workers and adhere to humanitarian laws. My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives serving others.”

  2. “This tragic event further exemplifies the urgent need for a complete overhaul of global aid protection protocols. The continuous targeting of humanitarian workers is a blatant violation of human rights and must be decisively addressed by the international community.” – Alex Taylor

  3. “This incident deeply saddens me. It’s crucial for all parties involved to adhere to international humanitarian law and protect the lives of aid workers who are dedicated to helping those in need. The senseless violence must stop for the sake of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.”

  4. “This is a tragic reflection of the ongoing violence in the region,” said Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). “It is crucial for all parties involved to prioritize the safety of humanitarian workers and uphold international humanitarian law to prevent further loss of life.”
    The heartbreaking loss of aid workers highlights the urgent need for improved security measures and greater respect for the invaluable work these heroes do in conflict zones,” she added.

  5. As a humanitarian myself, it is absolutely heartbreaking to hear about such attacks on aid workers trying to help those in need. The international community must hold all parties accountable and ensure the safety of those risking their lives to save others.

  6. “This incident is truly heartbreaking. It is crucial for all parties involved to prioritize the safety and protection of humanitarian workers. The continuous targeting of aid personnel is unacceptable and goes against the principles of humanity. My thoughts are with the families of the victims during this difficult time.”

  7. Do you think the international community will take more concrete actions in response to this tragic incident?

    1. It is imperative that the international community not only condemns such heinous attacks on humanitarian workers but also takes decisive actions to ensure accountability and prevent future tragedies. These brave individuals risk their lives to provide aid to those in need, and their sacrifices must not be in vain.

  8. Is there any official response from the Israeli government regarding this tragic incident?

  9. Do you think such attacks on humanitarian aid teams will decrease with increased international scrutiny and condemnation?

  10. Is there any official statement from the Israeli government regarding this incident?

  11. “This is an absolutely tragic situation,” expressed AlexandriaSmith_89, a concerned commentator on the matter. “It’s disheartening to see humanitarian aid workers being targeted and killed. We must ensure their safety and uphold international humanitarian law to prevent further senseless violence.”

  12. Are there any updates on the investigation into the Israeli attack on the NGO aid team? It’s devastating to hear about the loss of humanitarian workers in such circumstances.

  13. “This horrific event is a stark reminder of the need for increased protection for humanitarian workers in conflict zones. It is unacceptable that those risking their lives to help others are targeted in such a manner. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. We must all work together to ensure the safety and security of all aid workers.”

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