UK’s Sunak tells Netanyahu he’s ‘appalled’ after Gaza strike kills aid workers

British prime minister hits out as Israeli ambassador summoned over World Central Kitchen bombing.

The group has provided hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid to starving Gazans, amounting to more than 42 million meals over 175 days | AFP via Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu that the situation in Gaza is “increasingly intolerable” and condemned the “appalling” killing of aid workers, including three British nationals, in an airstrike in Gaza.

A statement from Sunak’s office, issued Tuesday night, signaled the deepest split yet between Israel and the United Kingdom, which has continued to stress its support for the country in the wake of the deadly Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas last year.

But London summoned Israel’s ambassador and demanded an investigation in the aftermath of the killing of seven workers from the World Central Kitchen aid organization.

A statement from the group — which said its aid convoy was hit “despite coordinating movements” with the Israel Defense Forces — said the dead included Australian, Polish and British citizens. The three British men killed in the attack were named late Tuesday night as security workers John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby. The Sun newspaper reported all three were Armed Forces veterans.

A readout of a Tuesday night call between Netanyahu and Sunak, provided by No. 10 Downing Street, said Sunak had told his Israeli opposite number he was “appalled by the killing of aid workers, including three British nationals, in an airstrike in Gaza yesterday and demanded a thorough and transparent independent investigation into what happened.”

“The prime minister said far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza and the situation is increasingly intolerable,” the statement continued.

“The U.K. expects to see immediate action by Israel to end restrictions on humanitarian aid, deconflict with the U.N. and aid agencies, protect civilians and repair vital infrastructure like hospitals and water networks.”

Sunak, per his office, “reiterated that Israel’s rightful aim of defeating Hamas would not be achieved by allowing a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

World Central Kitchen has provided hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid to starving Gazans.

‘Unequivocal condemnation’

Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary David Cameron had called his Israeli counterpart to urge an investigation into the incident. Junior minister Andrew Mitchell meanwhile summoned Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s ambassador to the U.K., to a meeting in the Foreign Office in which he “set out the government’s unequivocal condemnation of the appalling killing of 7 World Central Kitchen aid workers, including 3 British nationals.” It was the first such diplomatic move by the U.K. in 12 years.

The comments from the top U.K. politicians signal a notable hardening in tone, and came as the U.S. government too urged a speedy and independent investigation into the April 1 Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a trip to Paris, called on Israel to do more to protect civilian lives.

Australia’s Anthony Albanese meanwhile expressed his own anger at what he called the “completely unacceptable” killing of 43-year-old Australian aid worker Lalzawmi Frankcom in the same bombing. Albanese too summoned the Israeli ambassador.

On Tuesday Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu admitted “innocent people” had been killed in the “unintentional” airstrike.

“It happens in war, we check it to the end, we are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again,” he vowed.

World Central Kitchen said it had paused its operations “immediately” following the bombing.

Source: Politico