Biden administration officials are “outraged and heartbroken” after an Israeli airstrike killed a convoy of multi-national aid workers in Gaza on Monday, jeopardizing future food delivery to the embattled region. The deaths of the seven workers, employed by international charity World Central Kitchen, drew the administration’s sharpest criticism of Israel since the war against Hamas began, but notably did not lead to any new conditions on American weapon shipments.

The deadly strike came early Monday morning near the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, killing six WCK workers and their Palestinian driver. A statement from the charity confirmed the identities of the fallen, as well as their countries of origin. Those killed included three from the United Kingdom, one from Australia, one from Poland, and an American-Canadian dual citizen.

(Source: World Central Kitchen)

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Founded in 2010 by celebrity chef and restauranteur José Andrés, World Central Kitchen provides food relief to those in need in the wake of natural disasters and regional conflicts. At the time of the explosion, the group was traveling “in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle.”

Israeli outlet Haaretz reports that the strike was launched “because of suspicion that a terrorist was travelling with the convoy,” leading to three separate missiles being launched at the convoy via a Hermes 450 drone. No members of Hamas were found to have been present at the time of the attack.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,” WCK CEO Erin Gore wrote in a separate statement. “This is unforgivable.”

World Central Kitchen has now paused all operations in the Gaza Strip while the organization considers its next steps. Newly arrived aid ships have turned back just one day after arriving, taking 240 tons of undelivered supplies with them.

Related: UN Reports Half of Gaza is Experiencing “Catastrophic Hunger,” Famine Imminent

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed regret over the incident, acknowledging that his military was responsible for the “unintended strike” on “innocent people in the Gaza Strip.”

“Unfortunately, in the past day, there was a tragic incident of an unintentional hit by our forces on innocent people in the Gaza Strip. It happens during war. We are in touch with governments, and we’ll do everything so this doesn’t happen again,” his full statement said. He did not mention WCK by name.

After a preliminary briefing, Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said in a video statement that the bombing “was not carried out with the intention of harming” the aid workers.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification at night during a war in very complex conditions,” he added. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

He went on to promise a thorough investigation into the matter.

Related: Biden Announces Gaza Pier Construction for Aid Deliveries

Meanwhile, the United States government harshly condemned Israel’s handling of the situation, saying that it “has not done enough to protect aid workers” in Gaza in an unusually blunt criticism.

In a statement, an “outraged and heartbroken” President Joe Biden said that “this is not a stand-alone incident.”

“This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed,” he continued. “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. Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen. Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians. The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties.”

Biden also communicated with José Andrés directly to express his condolences.

In a Tuesday afternoon press briefing, National Security Council Communications Adviser John Kirby expressed similar outrage over the bombing, calling for the responsible parties to be held to “appropriate accountability.”

However, Kirby emphasized that Israel had not violated humanitarian norms and said there was no evidence that the strike had targeted the aid workers directly.

As such, the administration has no plans to attach new conditions to Israel’s use of US-supplied weapons, including the shipment of heavy explosive ordinance and 25 F-35 fighter jets the White House approved earlier this week.

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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