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The bodies of 6 foreign aid workers who were killed in Israeli attacks have been taken out of Gaza

Egyptian state media reported that the bodies of six foreign aid workers killed in a series of Israeli strikes have been taken out of the Gaza Strip before being repatriated. Qahera TV stated that the bodies were transported across the

By MOHAMMAD JAHJOUH and SAMY MAGDY (Associated Press)

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Six foreign aid workers who were killed in Israeli strikes were moved out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt on Wednesday before being sent back to their home countries, as reported by Egypt’s state-run Qahera TV.

The deadly attacks have sparked criticism of Israel’s actions in the nearly six-monthlong war with Hamas, and have highlighted the dangerous conditions faced by aid workers trying to deliver food to the besieged enclave, where experts say nearly a third of the population is on the brink of starvation.

The three British citizens, a Polish citizen, an Australian and a Canadian American dual citizen worked for World Central Kitchen, an international charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés. Their Palestinian driver was also killed, and his remains were handed over to his family for burial in Gaza.

The other bodies were taken into Egypt through the Rafah crossing.

The seven were providing food that had been brought into Gaza through a newly established maritime corridor late Monday when Israeli airstrikes targeted their three vehicles, killing everyone inside.

Israel said it carried out the strikes by mistake and that it has launched an independent investigation into how it happened.

Some of Israel’s closest allies, including the United States, condemned the deaths, which led the World Central Kitchen and other charities to suspend food deliveries, citing the dire security situation.

Cyprus, which has played a key role in setting up the maritime corridor, said the ships that had arrived Monday were returning to the Mediterranean island nation with some 240 tons of undelivered aid. But it also said the sea deliveries would continue.

Israel is facing increasing isolation as international criticism of its Gaza assault has grown. On the same day as the deadly airstrikes, Israel caused more concerns by apparently hitting Iran’s consulate in Damascus, leading to the deaths of two Iranian generals. The government also moved to close a foreign media outlet — Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television.

The attack on the charity’s convoy highlighted what critics have described as Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and lack of concern for civilian casualties in Gaza.

In an op-ed published by Israel’s widely-circulated Yediot Ahronot newspaper on Wednesday, Andrés wrote that “the Israeli government needs to open land routes to food and medicine today. It needs to stop killing civilians and aid workers today.”

Andrés, whose organization has provided aid in war and disaster zones all over the world, including to Israelis after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war, said the strikes “were not just some unfortunate mistake in the fog of war.”

“It was a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by the (Israeli military). It was also the direct result of (the Israeli) government’s policy to squeeze humanitarian aid to desperate levels,” Andrés wrote.

Israel has severely restricted access to northern Gaza, where experts say famine is imminent.

World Central Kitchen workers' deaths endangered efforts by the U.S. and other countries to open a sea route for aid from Cyprus to help improve desperate conditions in northern Gaza.

U.S. President Joe Biden gave a direct criticism of Israel, implying that the incident showed Israel was not doing enough to protect civilians.

He stated that incidents like the one from yesterday should not occur and emphasized that the United States has urged Israel multiple times to coordinate their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian efforts to prevent civilian casualties.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, disclosed the preliminary investigation's findings early Wednesday.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification -– at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said. He gave no further details. He said an independent body would conduct a “thorough investigation” that would be completed in the coming days.

World Central Kitchen stated that it had worked with the Israeli military on the movement of its vehicles. Three separate vehicles were hit in succession, which were left incinerated and mangled, indicating multiple targeted strikes.

At least one of the vehicles had the charity’s logo on its roof to make it identifiable from the air, and the ordnance punched a large hole through the roof. A video showed the bodies at a hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, some of them wearing protective gear with the charity’s logo.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, nearly 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, around two-thirds of them women and children. The Health Ministry's count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

The war started when Hamas-led militants entered southern Israel in a surprise attack on Oct. 7, resulting in roughly 1,200 deaths and around 250 hostages. Israel responded with one of the deadliest and most destructive offensives in recent history.

Hamas is still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of about 30 others, after most of the others were released last year in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. The United States, Qatar and Egypt have been working for months to negotiate another truce and hostage release.

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Magdy reported from Cairo.

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Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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