World Central Kitchen Had Brushes With Israeli Forces Before Massacre

wck aid workers

Last week’s killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers by Israeli air strikes is by no means the first time staffers for the humanitarian group have had a brush with Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza. According to a report from NBC News, on at least two occasions preceding the deadly air strikes, WCK workers came under fire from IDF forces despite having communicated its movements and operations to the IDF — an experience echoed by several aid groups that spoke to the publication. 

In the attacks last week, three vehicles carrying staffers for WCK, and marked with the organization’s logos, were hit by three successive airstrikes after leaving a warehouse where they had unloaded more than 100 tons of food to be distributed in the region. Six foreign workers and one Palestinian translator were killed in the attack, with some reports indicating that survivors of the initial strikes were killed as they attempted to transfer into the third vehicle. The Israeli government called the attack an unintentional “misidentification” of the convoy, and two IDF military officers were fired from their posts following a preliminary Israeli investigation of the incident. 

The deadly airstrikes created a firestorm in Washington, D.C. and put renewed pressure on Israel to change its tactics in Gaza and allow in more humanitarian aid. 

In the aftermath of the attack, renowned chef and WCK founder José Andrés has given frequent interviews criticizing Israel. “This doesn’t seem [like] a war against terror. This doesn’t seem anymore [like] a war about defending Israel. This really, at this point, seems [like] it’s a war against humanity itself. That’s why, yes, I’m requesting Israel, I’m requesting Prime Minister, I’m requesting IDF, that this investigation, and many others, should be done right, should be done in an independent way,” Andrés told ABC News on Sunday. 

Andrés’ call for an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrikes was backed late last week by roughly 40 House Democrats, including Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who urged the Biden administration to pause weapons transfers to Israel until such a probe is completed. 

While Israel has described the killings as an unfortunate accident, it reflects a broader pattern of violence against aid workers, who are protected under international law, amid Israel’s assault on Gaza. NBC News found that just two days before the WCK attack, one of its vehicles was targeted by an ​​Israeli sniper, the organization believes. No injuries were reported. A week earlier, 19 Palestinians waiting to receive food from WCK were killed by Israeli forces at the Kuwaiti Roundabout in Gaza City. In one image, a tarp belonging to the aid group was used to carry away an injured Palestinian. 

Nearly 200 aid workers have been killed since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, according to the United Nations. On Friday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent probe into the slew of humanitarian worker deaths in the besieged region, stating: “196 humanitarian workers have been killed and we want to know why each one of them was killed.” 

As previously reported by Rolling Stone, between the siege of Gaza and the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, aid worker deaths in areas of military conflict skyrocketed last year. According to researchers at Humanitarian Outcomes, an independent research group based in London, there was a 2,850 percent increase in the total number of aid workers killed by aerial bombardments in 2023 over the previous year, a figure that can be almost entirely attributed to Israel’s brutal war in Gaza. 

NBC News’ investigation identified six other recent incidents involving alleged IDF targeting of aid organizations. In January, several International Rescue Committee staff members were injured when a bomb exploded near one of their facilities. In March, a staffer working for American Near East Refugee Aid was killed in an airstrike on a shelter. The organization stated that “the coordinates of his shelter had been provided [to the IDF] for the purpose of protecting him on several occasions, including just days before the attack.”

Most of the aid workers killed in Gaza have been Palestinian members of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operations in the region. Israel has repeatedly accused the UNRWA of employing individuals involved in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, but has provided little evidence to back up the claim. Regardless, the UNRWA’s ability to operate within Gaza has been heavily restricted by IDF forces, and the United States has cut funding to the group. 


The combination of ongoing military action in Gaza, and the outsized death toll among those attempting to deliver aid to the region, threatens to exponentially worsen an already dire humanitarian crisis. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, the leading food security index relied upon by international humanitarian groups, warned last month that half of Gaza’s population is at “imminent” risk of famine. 

As aid organizations pause operations amid fears that they cannot guarantee their workers’ security, relief for starving Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip may come too late. 

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