Israel has attacked aid workers and relief convoys ‘over and over again’, says Human Rights Watch report

President Michael D Higgins says report demonstrates how attacks on aid workers ‘are not isolated incidents’

Israeli forces have mounted repeated strikes on humanitarian aid workers’ residences and relief convoys in Gaza since October, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Eight attacks investigated by HRW took place even after the United Nations and international aid groups provided co-ordinates for housing locations and convoy routes. Israel’s military “did not issue advanced warnings to any of the aid organisations”, HRW said. At least 15 people were killed, including two children, and 15 injured in the cases cited.

President Michael D Higgins said the HRW report demonstrated “how these are not isolated incidents”.

The United Nations has said that more than 250 aid workers have been killed in Gaza over the course of the conflict, he pointed out.


“On a matter like this there can be no equivocation, it must be condemned by all those who believe in humanitarian principles. Silence on this matter would reflect badly on any member of the European Union.”

The most publicised incident was the co-ordinated attack on April 1st by three Israeli drones on a three-vehicle convoy of the US-based World Central Kitchen (WCK) which killed British, Polish, Australian, US-Canadian and Palestinian staff. HRW associate director Belkis Wille said it “was shocking and should never have happened under international law”.

She added: “Israel’s allies need to recognise [such strikes] have happened over and over again and they need to stop.”

The seven other attacks struck housing for staff of Médecins Sans Frontières, the UN Palestine agency Unrwa, the International Rescue Committee, Medical Aid for Palestinians, and American Near East Refugee Aid. MSF and Unrwa convoys were also struck.

HRW said the eight incidents “reveal fundamental flaws [with the system] meant to protect aid workers and allow them to safely deliver humanitarian assistance in Gaza”.

More than 250 aid workers, nearly all Palestinians, have been killed during the Israeli offensive. The war began on October 7th when a Hamas attack on Israel killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies. More than 34,500 Palestinians have died during Israel’s military response, according to Gaza health officials.

HRW said the pattern of attacks questions Israel’s commitment to humanitarian law.

The agency also said Israel is pursuing a policy of “using starvation as a method of warfare in Gaza [by] deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food, and fuel, [and] wilfully impeding humanitarian assistance”.

Israel has not replied to a May 1st HRW letter concerning these incidents.

Publication of the HRW report coincided with an Israeli strike that killed UN safety and security officer Waibhav Anil Kale, an Indian citizen who became the first UN international staff fatality during the Gaza war. He was travelling in a UN-marked vehicle to the European Hospital near Rafah, where a team of international doctors has been trapped by Israel’s offensive while a rotation team is waiting in Cairo to relieve them.

On Monday, Israeli settlers blocked the route of a 98-lorry Jordanian convoy travelling through Israel to deliver aid to Gaza, presumably via the Erez crossing in the north as the crossings in the south are closed. Vehicles and food parcels were damaged. This was the latest settler attack on Jordanian convoys. Jordanian foreign ministry spokesman said Israel is legally responsible for the safety of convoys.

Israel’s press office did not comment on the report.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times