The IRC is appalled by this week’s Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, which killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, including both Palestinian and foreign nationals, after they unloaded food aid at its central warehouse. Since October 2023, more than 200 humanitarian workers have now been killed in the occupied Palestinian territory, more than 95% of whom are Palestinian. Gaza is the most dangerous place in the world to be an aid worker, as well as the most dangerous place to be a civilian. 

Gaza’s entire population urgently requires humanitarian assistance, lacking basic necessities such as food, water, health care and shelter. Famine is imminent and nowhere in Gaza currently has access to sufficient assistance and services. 

As aid agencies are forced to suspend operations due to the escalating risks associated with aid delivery, more than 2 million Palestinians in need of humanitarian assistance will be plunged into even further desperation and misery.

Arvind Das, IRC Gaza Crisis Team Lead, said,

“The work of humanitarians is more critical than ever. Following the World Central Kitchen attacks, one of our partners, Anera, has had to suspend operations citing that it is no longer feasible to safely deliver services in Gaza. Enough is enough. More than 32,000 civilians have been killed in this catastrophic conflict, and repeatedly aid workers who are providing life saving assistance to populations in need are being killed with total disregard. Aid convoys have been attacked, and shelters and hospitals supported by the humanitarian community are continuously being damaged or destroyed under Israeli bombardment. These are violations of International Humanitarian Law and must stop.”

Denisa Delić, Advocacy Director of International Rescue Committee UK, said, 

“The IRC sends our utmost condolences to World Central Kitchen and the loved ones of the aid workers killed, including three British nationals. 

The UK government must secure concrete assurances from the Government of Israel that attacks against aid workers and health workers will not occur in the future. 

We also urge the UK government to ensure full, independent and timebound investigations into all attacks on humanitarian and deconflicted facilities are conducted by the Israeli authorities, including the near-fatal strike on our joint EMT with MAP on 18 January 2024. As current suppliers of arms to Israel, the UK has a responsibility to hold Israel to account on this and other attacks on aid workers and civilians.   

The IRC reiterates the need for an urgent and sustained ceasefire in Gaza to protect civilians and aid workers from further harm and devastating loss of life.” 

On 18 January 2024, the Israeli military carried out a near-fatal airstrike on a residential compound housing Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) and the IRC’s Emergency Medical Team (EMT), as well as members of MAP’s local team and their family members. Almost three months on, we are yet to receive any credible explanation from the Government of Israel as to why the attack occurred. There has been no thorough, transparent investigation, nor explanation of measures to prevent recurrence - and attacks on aid workers have continued since then.

This week’s tragic strike in Deir al-Balah was completely avoidable and is emblematic of thousands of other attacks on civilian, medical and humanitarian buildings and people in Gaza. Assurances from the Government of Israel that attacks against aid workers will not occur in the future must not be mere ink on paper. The IRC and MAP continue to call for a full, independent and timebound investigation of all reported attacks on humanitarian and deconflicted facilities and personnel in Gaza - resulting in a conclusive, public report. 

With humanitarian needs deepening across Gaza, and aid agencies now having to make impossible decisions about continuing life-saving operations, the situation threatens to somehow plumb new depths. It is critical that states use all available leverage  to ensure the immediate implementation of a sustained ceasefire and the protection of civilians - including the release of all hostages - in line with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.