Israeli Drone Strikes Shut Down First Maritime Aid Corridor to Gaza

Maritime aid
Courtesy World Central Kitchen

Published Apr 2, 2024 1:50 PM by The Maritime Executive


On Monday, a series of Israeli drone strikes hit a road convoy attached to the only maritime aid corridor to Gaza, killing seven aid workers and forcing the operator to suspend all land-side and water-side operations. 

According to Haaretz, Israeli drone operators executed three successive missile strikes on three separate aid vehicles. The convoy belonged to the aid NGO World Central Kitchen, and had just finished transporting a cargo of food from WCK's receiving pier to a distribution warehouse. 

The first and last airstrikes have been geolocated to positions about 2.4 kilometers apart, indicating multiple engagements, as confirmed by Israeli outlet Haaretz. One vehicle showed a perforation in the roof that appeared to pass through the World Central Kitchen logo. 

Haaretz reports that after the first vehicle was destroyed, the drone operators pursued aid workers as they moved wounded into the second vehicle. Another missile destroyed the second vehicle, and survivors moved to the third vehicle. This was also targeted and destroyed, according to Haaretz

All seven humanitarian personnel in the convoy were killed, including two Palestinians and five foreign citizens: one U.S.-Canadian dual national, three UK citizens and one citizen of Poland. 

World Central Kitchen says that it notified the Israeli Defense Forces of the convoy's route and timing in advance. 

The event raises new questions about the security of operations for the soon-to-launch American maritime aid corridor, which will be of much larger proportions. World Central Kitchen says that after the strikes, it canceled its maritime delivery mission in the middle of offloading and sent its vessels back to port in Cyprus. The government of the UAE, which provided support for the operation, has also suspended involvement until it receives security guarantees. Another aid organization, Anera, has also paused food distribution operations, citing the loss of a staff member in a previous Israeli strike. 

The IDF has described the series of strikes as a "grave mistake," the result of a nighttime interdiction gone wrong. The Israeli government has apologized for the occurrence - but World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore alleged Tuesday that it was an attack.

"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," Gore said in a press release. 

Israel has curtailed land-side food aid convoys into Gaza, and the UN and NGOs have warned of an impending famine affecting 1.1 million people. The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the EU's foreign policy chief have alleged that the food situation in Gaza may be a policy choice

Israel's security minister has opposed the operation of food convoys for Gaza until after the release of all remaining Israeli hostages held by Hamas, including approximately 100 survivors and the remains of approximately 30 deceased.