Israel accused of being willing to 'sacrifice' seven innocent charity workers in Gaza military onslaught

Israel was accused today of being prepared to “sacrifice” seven innocent charity workers in its Gaza military onslaught as the UK Government came under growing pressure to ban arms sales to the key ally.

Amid world outrage about the deadly air strike, Poland’s foreign minister criticised Israel’s explanation that it was a “grave mistake” due to “misidentification”. Radoslaw Sikorski told BBC radio: “The Israeli chief of staff says this was a case of mistaken identity and that they thought there was a terrorist amongst them.

But even if there was, they seem to have been willing to sacrifice seven innocent people for someone who was not an immediate danger.

“These are moral hazards that I do not think are acceptable.”

No Hamas terrorist was in the aid convoy, according to all the evidence so far. In Britain, where the Government was being urged to stop arms sales, former MI6 chief Sir Alex Younger branded some actions by Israel as “bordering on the reckless” despite its claims to carry out precision strikes.

He added that it was “hard not to conclude that insufficient care is being paid” to the risks of aid workers, or civilians, being killed by Israeli forces seeking to destroy the Hamas terror group.

The seven charity workers killed in Gaza on Monday evening, who were in a World Central Kitchen aid convoy, included Britons John Chapman, James “Jim” Henderson and James Kirby.

WCK founder Jose Andres claimed Israel Defence Forces knew his aid workers’ movements and targeted them “systematically, car by car”.

He added: “This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place. This was over 1.5km, 1.8km, with a very defined humanitarian convoy that had signs in the top, in the roof, a very colourful logo.”

Israeli cabinet minister Nir Barkat rejected as “nonsense” the allegation of deliberate targeting in the drone strike in which three missiles were fired at the aid workers’ convoy shortly after it had deposited 100 tonnes of food at a WCK warehouse. “With all due respect there’s no way in the world that Israel would target people that come to give people aid,” he said.

But the backlash against Israel was growing, with a letter in the UK signed by more than 600 lawyers including former Supreme Court justices, calling on the Government to stop arms sales to the key ally in the Middle East.

The signatories, including former Supreme Court president Lady Hale, said the worsening situation in Gaza and the International Court of Justice’s conclusion that there was a “plausible risk of genocide” obliged the UK to suspend arms sales to the country given the “clear risk that they might be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

Human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield KC, also one of the letter signatories, told Times Radio: “I say, and I think some of the others... would say, effectively, we’ve reached genocide already.”

Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described the attack as unintended and “tragic” and pledged an independent inquiry.

But US secretary of defence Lloyd Austin urged Israel to take concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza “after repeated co-ordination failures”. Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese said Israel’s explanation for the deaths of the aid workers, including Australian woman Zomi Frankcom, was “not good enough”.

Nearly 200 aid workers are reported to have died in the war in Gaza. Its health ministry announced a further 62 Palestinian deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total toll since the conflict began to 33,037. Israel’s offensive in Gaza was launched in response to the murderous attack by Hamas on October 7 in which at least 1,200 Israelis were killed and more than 200 taken hostage.