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Bodies of foreign aid workers killed in Israeli strike leave Gaza

Bodies of foreign aid workers killed in Israeli strike leave Gaza

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) - The bodies of foreign aid workers killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza were brought to the crossing with Egypt on Wednesday as international outrage simmered over an attack that highlighted the dangers faced by humanitarian staff in the enclave.

The strike late on Monday night hit a convoy of three vehicles and killed seven staff of the aid group World Central Kitchen (WCK), including citizens of Australia, Britain, and Poland, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada as well as a Palestinian colleague, who was buried at his home.

Their deaths prompted a wave of condemnation from some of Israel's closest allies, including U.S. President Joe Biden, who said he was "outraged" by what he said was "not a stand-alone incident".

More than 2 million people in Gaza are now almost completely reliant on aid shipments almost six months into Israel's devastating siege and invasion of the territory triggered by Hamas' Oct. 7 cross-border attack.

In Gaza, there were calls for stronger action to stop Israel continuing with a military campaign that local health authorities say has killed more than 32,000 people.

"This is a sign that the weapons provided by the British and American governments in support of the Israeli occupation army in weapons, money, and equipment do not differentiate between Palestinians and other nationalities," said Marwan Al-Hams, director of the Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

The bodies of the foreign aid workers were handed over to U.N. officials at the Egyptian border for transport home.

In the aftermath of the attack, Israel acknowledged that its forces carried out the strike on the convoy but said it was unintentional. It expressed "deep sorrow" and pledged a full, independent investigation.

Israel's bombardment and invasion of Gaza followed the Hamas-led attack which killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners, with more than 250 abducted into Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

However the scale of the killing and the gathering humanitarian disaster in Gaza has led to a growing outcry outside Israel. The United Nations has demanded that Israel do more to get humanitarian supplies into Gaza to alleviate hunger and ward off the threat of famine.

Prior to Monday's incident, Israeli officials had said there were no restrictions on aid coming into the enclave and blamed aid organizations for not distributing the supplies effectively.

WCK, founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres, said its staff were travelling in two armoured cars with the charity's logo and another vehicle, and had coordinated their movements with the Israeli military.

In Gaza, fighting continued on Wednesday, concentrated around the southern city of Khan Younis, where medical officials said an Israeli strike killed three people.

In the central Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah, which the Israeli army has not invaded, tank shelling killed four Palestinians in a southeast district, health officials said.

(Reporting and writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi. Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu)