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US reportedly approved more bombs for Israel on day of aid convoy strike; pressure grows on Biden to act – live


Biden administration approved more bombs to Israel on day of Gaza aid convoy strike – report

The US authorized the transfer of thousands of bombs to Israel on the same day Israeli airstrikes killed seven aid workers working for the World Central Kitchen (WCK) in Gaza, the Washington Post reported, citing multiple officials.

The state department approved the transfer of more than 1,000 MK82 500lb bombs, more than 1,000 small-diameter bombs, and fuses for MK80 bombs to Israel, it said. The transfer authorization was also reported by CNN.

According to the Post, a state department confirmed the approval and said it occurred sometime “prior” to when the Israeli aircraft struck the aid convoy. A day after the attack, Joe Biden released a statement that he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the deaths of the aid workers, which included a US-Canada dual citizen.

Last week, the US reportedly authorized the transfer of similar weaponry worth billions of dollars to Israel, including more than 1,800 MK-84 2,000lb bombs and 500 MK-82 500lb bombs.

Washington gives $3.8bn in annual military assistance to Israel, its longtime ally. The latest transfers came from authorizations granted by Congress several years before the Israel-Gaza war began in October, but the US government has the authority to suspend an arms package any time before delivery.

Asked why the Biden administration did not pause the process after the Israeli drone attack on the WCK humanitarian aid convoy, the state department spokesperson did not comment, the Post wrote.

Key events

It is unclear if Biden’s outrage at the killing of aid workers by Israeli strikes will cause him to put conditions on weapons sent to Israel.

The White House has not confirmed if Biden’s fury at the situation will lead to consequences for Israel, the New York Times reported.

But Biden has harshly criticized Israel ahead of a call between Biden and Netanyahu scheduled for Thursday. Following the air strike against the World Central Kitchen (WCK) convoy, Biden said that Israel “has not done enough to protect aid workers,” the Times reported.

Other Democrats have more clearly called for Biden to “[change] course” after the killing of WCK relief workers.

“I hope this will be the moment where the president changes course,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, to the Times.

“Netanyahu ignored the president’s requests, and yet we send 2,000-pound bombs with no restrictions on their use,” he added.

But Democratic leaders have declined to call for restrictions on arms to Israel.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer declined to support a limit on the use of weapons, later refusing to discuss the topic with the Times.

Read the full analysis from the Times here (paywall).

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Lorenzo Tondo

The international food charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) has called for an independent investigation into the Israeli strikes that killed seven of its aid workers in Gaza on Monday, as Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu were expected to discuss the attack on the phone.

WCK asked Australia, Canada, Poland, the US and the UK, whose citizens were killed, to join it in demanding “an independent, third-party’’ inquiry into the strikes.

“This was a military attack that involved multiple strikes and targeted three WCK vehicles,” the charity said in a statement.

All three vehicles were carrying civilians; they were marked as WCK vehicles; and their movements were in full compliance with Israeli authorities, who were aware of their itinerary, route and humanitarian mission. An independent investigation is the only way to determine the truth of what happened, ensure transparency and accountability for those responsible, and prevent future attacks on humanitarian aid workers.

The World Central Kitchen (WCK) was one of few aid organizations permitted by Israeli authorities to deliver food to northern Gaza and has brought hundreds of tonnes of food aid into the Palestinian territory.

On Monday night, a convoy of three armored cars belonging to WCK was attacked while leaving a warehouse in Deir al-Balah.

According to a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz, an Israeli drone fired three missiles at the convoy of three armored cars – all of which were clearly marked on the roof and sides with the WCK’s logo – as they travelled back along a route pre-approved and coordinated with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

A Hermes 450 drone struck one car, causing some of the passengers to abandon it and switch to the other two vehicles. According to Haaretz, the team notified the IDF they had been attacked, but another missile then hit the second car.

Passengers in the third car tried to help the wounded, the newspaper said. According to the Guardian’s geolocation of the strikes, the last car was hit by a third missile about a mile farther south.

Video obtained by Reuters showed a large hole in the roof of a four-wheel-drive WCK vehicle and its burnt and torn interior, as well as paramedics moving bodies into a hospital and displaying the passports of three of those killed.

Map

The seven victims were named by WCK as Britons John Chapman, 57, James Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, who were working for the charity’s security team. The team’s leader, Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43, an Australian national, also died, along with American-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33, Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, and Palestinian Saif Issam Abu Taha, 25.

Ahead of an expected call between Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu today, Israel has said it will “adjust our practices” after seven aid workers working for World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed in an Israeli strike in Gaza on Monday.

Asked to respond to comments by WCK founder José Andrés, who has said he believes his workers were “systematically” targeted by Israel Defense Forces, Israeli government spokesperson Raquela Karamson said:

This was unintended … In the coming weeks, as the findings become clear, we will be transparent and share the results with the public.

Speaking during a media briefing on Thursday, she added:

Clearly something went wrong here, and as we learn more and the investigation reveals exactly what happened, and the cause of what happened, we will certainly adjust our practices in the future to make sure this does not happen again.

The Israeli government had previously confirmed its military had carried out “an unintended strike”, with Israeli defense sources saying that the aid workers’ vehicles had been hit three times by missiles because of erroneous suspicions that a terrorist was traveling with the convoy.

Andrés has insisted that his team was in clear communication with the Israeli military, which he said knew his aid workers’ movements, and that the convoy “had signs in the top, in the roof, a very colorful logo … [it is] very clear who we are and what we do.”

Jill Biden privately urged Joe Biden to end conflict in Gaza – report

Jill Biden pleaded with her husband, Joe Biden, to “stop it, stop it now”, referring to the war in Gaza, the president told guests at the White House, according to a report.

At a meeting with Muslim community members on Tuesday, a guest told Biden that his wife had disapproved of him attending the event because of the president’s support for Israel in its war in Gaza, the New York Times reported yesterday. The report states:

Mr Biden replied that he understood. The first lady, he said, had been urging him to ‘Stop it, stop it now,’ according to an attendee who heard his remarks.

First Lady Jill Biden and US President Joe Biden arrive for the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington DC, on 1 April 2024. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Asked about the president’s remarks, the White House said Jill Biden was not calling for Israel to end its war in Gaza, the paper said. In a statement, the first lady’s communications director Elizabeth Alexander said:

Just like the president, the first lady is heartbroken over the attacks on aid workers and the ongoing loss of innocent lives in Gaza. They both want Israel to do more to protect civilians.

Julian Borger

Julian Borger

At home, Joe Biden’s material support of Israel has alienated Arab-Americans, other minorities, young and progressive Democrats, and as a result has jeopardised his prospects for winning the key swing state of Michigan at the very least, and with it possibly the whole general election.

A policy U-turn now would not be guaranteed to win those votes back, while it would risk alienating the instinctively pro-Israel parts of the Democratic coalition.

The last president to threaten to block weapons supplies to Israel was Republican Ronald Reagan, while the last Democratic president to seriously alienate Jewish Americans in his own party was Jimmy Carter, who authorised secret contacts in 1979 with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, and paid an electoral price the following year, losing the 1980 election.

Julian Borger

Julian Borger

Administration officials have faced questions almost daily as to why Joe Biden has not restricted or conditioned military aid on a change of Israeli behavior in Gaza.

The stock response has been that the Biden administration, while urging Israel to do more to protect the civilians of Gaza, should do nothing to limit Israel’s ability to defend itself, a touchstone of US foreign policy for more than half a century.

Democrats of all hues, whether they support the current policy or not, say that a change of course by the Biden administration on arms supplies is highly unlikely, for both policy and political reasons.

“He is not going to do it. He fundamentally believes Israel has a right to defend itself, and he believes that in his heart,” said a former senior Biden administration official of the president, adding: “There is zero probability in my view.”

Biden’s personal sense of commitment to Israel, cemented over decades of close contact with Israeli leaders, is a large part of the reason his administration is so resistant to change.

The reported approval last week of billions of dollars worth of US bombs and planes for Israel, as well as the reported transfer of thousands of bombs to Israel on the same day Israeli airstrikes killed seven aid workers, comes amid growing questions as to why continued US military aid is not being made conditional on a change of Israeli behavior to limit the civilian death toll and significantly expand aid delivery.

Among the weapons that were reportedly approved last week to Israel were 1,800 MK-84 2,000lb bombs, which can flatten an apartment block and leave an 11-metre deep crater. It is a devastating weapon that has reportedly been used frequently by the Israeli air force, playing a significant role in the estimated 33,000 death toll in Gaza since October.

The news that the nearly $4bn a year arms pipeline from the US to Israel remained in full uninterrupted flow drew a furious reaction from critics, who pointed to the irony of the Biden administration urging a ceasefire and the delivery of food aid into Gaza while supplying the weapons that fuel both the war and the humanitarian crisis.

Israel assistance

José Andrés, the celebrity chef and founder of the non-profit World Central Kitchen (WCK), has condemned Israeli airstrikes that killed seven of his aid workers in Gaza and called for an investigation of the incident by the US government.

Spanish-born Andrés, now a US citizen, in an interview yesterday said the Israeli attack had targeted his workers taking food shipments from a warehouse in Deir al-Balah “systematically, car by car”.

He said the WCK had clear communication with the Israeli military, which he said knew his aid workers’ movements.

“This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,” he said, rejecting Israeli and US assertions that the strike was not deliberate. He said:

They were targeting us in a deconflicting zone, in an area controlled by IDF [Israel Defense Forces]. They knowing that it was our teams moving on that road … with three cars.

Aid workers killed in Gaza ‘targeted deliberately’, says charity founder – video

Biden administration approved more bombs to Israel on day of Gaza aid convoy strike – report

The US authorized the transfer of thousands of bombs to Israel on the same day Israeli airstrikes killed seven aid workers working for the World Central Kitchen (WCK) in Gaza, the Washington Post reported, citing multiple officials.

The state department approved the transfer of more than 1,000 MK82 500lb bombs, more than 1,000 small-diameter bombs, and fuses for MK80 bombs to Israel, it said. The transfer authorization was also reported by CNN.

According to the Post, a state department confirmed the approval and said it occurred sometime “prior” to when the Israeli aircraft struck the aid convoy. A day after the attack, Joe Biden released a statement that he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the deaths of the aid workers, which included a US-Canada dual citizen.

Last week, the US reportedly authorized the transfer of similar weaponry worth billions of dollars to Israel, including more than 1,800 MK-84 2,000lb bombs and 500 MK-82 500lb bombs.

Washington gives $3.8bn in annual military assistance to Israel, its longtime ally. The latest transfers came from authorizations granted by Congress several years before the Israel-Gaza war began in October, but the US government has the authority to suspend an arms package any time before delivery.

Asked why the Biden administration did not pause the process after the Israeli drone attack on the WCK humanitarian aid convoy, the state department spokesperson did not comment, the Post wrote.

During the 90-minute meeting last Tuesday, defense secretary Lloyd Austin pressed his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, to ensure that any Israeli military operation in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah would prioritize the protection of civilians and secure the delivery of aid, according to a Pentagon official.

Speaking after his meeting with Gallant, which also included the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen CQ Brown, Austin said it was a moral and strategic imperative to protect Palestinian civilians, but there was nothing to suggest that he sought to condition future US military aid to Israel on an improvement of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a meeting with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant at the Pentagon on 26 March 2024 in Arlington, Virginia. Photograph: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The meeting at the Pentagon came a day after Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, abruptly canceled a high-level visit to Washington over the US abstention in a UN security council vote to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.

Austin expressed ‘outrage’ over Gaza aid convoy strike in call with Israel

Defense secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, in a phone call yesterday in which he expressed his “outrage” over the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strike on Monday that killed seven aid workers trying to deliver much-needed food to Gaza.

A readout of the call, published last night by the Pentagon’s press secretary, Maj Gen Patrick Ryder, states:

Secretary Austin expressed his outrage at the Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid convoy that killed seven aid workers, including an American citizen. Secretary Austin stressed the need to immediately take concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza after repeated coordination failures with foreign aid groups.

Austin also urged Gallant to conduct a “swift and transparent investigation, to share their conclusions publicly, and to hold those responsible to account”, it said.

Austin’s comments on Wednesday marked a significant change in tone from previous calls between the US and Israeli defense ministers, and comes after the pair held talks last week in Washington in what the Pentagon later described as a frank and direct discussion.

Joe Biden, in a statement after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) drone attack on Monday that killed seven people working for the World Central Kitchen (WCK) charity, said Israel was not doing enough to protect aid workers and called for a swift investigation into the strike.

In comments that were highly critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza, Biden said:

This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed.

He said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the aid workers’ deaths and highlighted that this was not a standalone incident.

This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult – because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians … Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians.

Among those killed in the attack was Jacob Flickinger, a US-Canada dual citizen working for WCK, as well as three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national and a Palestinian.

Composite of World Central Kitchen relief and security team members Top row: James Henderson, James Kirby, John Chapman. Bottom row: Damian Sobol, Lalzawmi Zomi Frankcom, Jacob Flickinger, Saif Issam Abu Taha Composite: World Central Kitchen/Getty Images

Biden and Netanyahu to speak for first time since Gaza aid convoy attack

Good morning US politics readers. Joe Biden and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, are expected to hold their first call since Israeli airstrikes that killed seven aid workers in Gaza on Monday.

Biden, in a statement the following day, said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the deaths of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) humanitarian workers, who included an American-Canadian dual citizen, and is fully prepared to make his feelings clear to Netanyahu in their conversation today, CNN reported, citing a senior administration official. The president “is pissed. The temperature regarding Bibi is very high,” an official told Axios.

Biden’s criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza, where authorities say more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October, has grown over recent weeks and his frustration with Netanyahu has become increasingly visible. The president has faced increasing pressure over his handling of the war, including from the first lady, Jill Biden, who reportedly pleaded with her husband to “stop it, stop it now”. Meanwhile, defense secretary Lloyd Austin “expressed his outrage” at the aid convoy strike in a call on Wednesday with his counterpart, Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant, according to the Pentagon.

The Biden administration, however, has continued to affirm its support of Israel in the wake of the Israeli drone strike, and Biden has shown no signs of trying to restrict or withhold US military aid to Israel. Just this week it was reported that the administration is close to approving a major new weapons sale to Israel worth more than $18bn that will include up to 50 US-made F-15 fighter jets.

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