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Chef José Andrés: Israel is committing a ‘war against humanity itself’

After the IDF concluded its investigation into its airstrike that killed seven aid workers, Andrés and World Central Kitchen called for an independent probe.
/ Source: TODAY

Chef José Andrés claimed Israel is committing a “war against humanity itself” following the killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in a Gaza airstrike on April 1.

“This is a tragedy,” Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said on April 5. “It was a terrible chain of errors and it should never have happened. The IDF takes full responsibility for this regrettable loss of life.”

The IDF announcement follows a days-long investigation into the incident that left seven workers from World Central Kitchen dead.

The not-for-profit organization, founded by the Spanish American chef, aims to alleviate hunger and provide meals in regions of conflict.

In Hagari’s April 5 comments, he said the investigation had been conducted as part of the Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism, an “independent body that is outside the chain of command.”

Hagari said the airstrike on the WCK workers was a “grave mistake stemming from the serious operational failures: mistaken classification and identification, errors in decision-making and strikes that were conducted in violation of stunted operation procedures.”

He confirmed that IDF had taken several disciplinary actions following the incident, including dismissing two officers and formally reprimanding three commanders.

In a statement released on April 5, World Central Kitchen said that while the investigation and subsequent disciplinary actions were an “important step forward,” the organization is demanding “an independent commission to investigate the killings of our WCK colleagues.”

“The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza,” the statement reads. “Without systemic change, there will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families.”

The World Central Kitchen aid workers killed in the April 1 airstrike

In a statement shared on April 2, WCK identified the seven workers as Saifeddin Issam Avad Abutaha, 25, of Palestine; Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, of Australia; Damian Soból, 35, of Poland; Jacob Flickinger, 33, of the United States and Canada; John Chapman, 57, of the United Kingdom; James “Jim” Henderson, 33, of the U.K.; and James Kirby, 47, of the U.K.

Seven photos of people killed in the IDF strike.
The WCK victims of the IDF strike.Courtesy of World Central Kitchen

What do we know about the April 1 airstrike that killed the WCK workers?

WCK has previously said in a statement released April 2 that its members were traveling in a “deconflicted zone” in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle when they were struck.

The group added that the convoy was hit “despite coordinating movements with the IDF,” as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where these members had unloaded over 100 tons of humanitarian food aid.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable,” said World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore.

Israeli army attacks a vehicle belonging to an international volunteer aid organization
Passports of some of the victims of an attack on a vehicle belonging to the World Central Kitchen in Deir al-Balah.Anadolu via Getty Images

In an initial statement on April 1, IDF addressed the deaths, according to a statement obtained by NBC News, noting that it would conduct a “thorough review at the highest levels.”

The findings released on April 5 echo IDF’s earlier statements about the incident. In a video posted on April 2, Herzi Halevi, the IDF chief of general staff, said the strike on the aid workers was not intentional.

“I want to be very clear — the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers. It was a mistake that followed a misidentification — at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened.”

Halevi said the IDF is “taking immediate actions to ensure that more is done to protect humanitarian aid workers.”

“The incident was a grave mistake. Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the people of Gaza,” he said. “We are sorry for the unintentional harm to the members of the WCK. We share in the grief of their families, as well as the entire World Central Kitchen Organization, from the bottom of our hearts.”

In the April 5 announcement, Hagari claimed that “there were in fact a number of armed gunmen who boarded and left some of the vehicles that were identified during the course of the event.”

“After some of the vehicles split from the others, the forces that were tracking the vehicles that went south, did so thinking that these were Hamas vehicles, that Hamas gunmen had entered,” Hagari said.

Hagari said that the soldiers conducted the strike “without any awareness that these were in fact WCK vehicles,” adding that cameras tracking the WCK vehicles were unable to identify the WCK logos on the roof of the vehicles, which were not visible at night.

NBC News has not been able to independently verify the IDF’s claims.

Andrés response to the slain WCK aid workers

On April 1, Andrés posted a statement regarding the deaths on his account on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family,” his post reads. “These are people…angels…I served alongside in Ukraine, Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, Bahamas, Indonesia. They are not faceless…they are not nameless.”

“The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing,” his post continued. “It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon. No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now.”

In an op-ed for the New York Times published on April 3, Andrés wrote, “Israel is better than the way this war is being waged.”

In an April 5 statement through WCK following the IDF’s announcement of the results of the investigation, Andrés slammed the number of civilian deaths in the conflict.

“It’s not enough to simply try to avoid further humanitarian deaths, which have now approached close to 200,” Andrés said. “All civilians need to be protected, and all innocent people in Gaza need to be fed and safe. And all hostages must be released.”

Then, on April 6, in an interview with “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz, Andrés said, “This doesn’t seem a war against terror. This doesn’t seem anymore a war about defending Israel. This really, at this point, seems it’s a war against humanity itself.”

He thanked the IDF for conducting “such a quick investigation,” but called for a more thorough, independent one.

“It is unforgivable,” Andrés added. “I will have to live with this the rest of my life. We all will have to live with this the rest of our lives. I have seen firsthand what has been happening in Ukraine, entire towns and cities being wiped out by Russia, by Putin. What Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing is exactly the same.”

President Joe Biden’s response to the aid workers’ deaths

President Joe Biden slammed Israel for the deaths, saying he’s “outraged and heartbroken.”

“They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war,” Biden said in his statement. “They were brave and selfless. Their deaths are a tragedy.”

In his April 2 comments, Biden added that the WCK aid workers’ deaths were not an anomaly in the conflict.

“Even more tragically, this is not a stand-alone incident. This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed,” he said, adding that distributing humanitarian aid in the region has been “so difficult” as a result of Israel not doing “enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.”

The president said that the U.S. will also continue to “deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, through all available means” and said the U.S. is “pushing hard for an immediate ceasefire as part of a hostage deal.”