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Israeli military fires two senior officers as report finds strike on aid workers was in ‘serious violation of commands’

By Rob Picheta, CNN

(CNN) — The IDF fired two senior officers and reprimanded a top commander as it admitted a catalog of failures in a drone strike on an aid convoy in Gaza, including that it killed aid workers who had survived an initial attack.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Friday that “those who approved the strike were convinced that they were targeting armed Hamas operatives,” calling the attack “a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification.”

It said the strike was carried out in “serious violation of the commands and IDF Standard Operating Procedures,” and dismissed a major and a colonel in reserve. Three other IDF officials were formally reprimanded: the commanders of the brigade and division involved, and the commander of the Southern Command, who bore “overall responsibility.”

The drone operators who carried out the killing had not been told by higher-ups about the humanitarian convoy due to “internal failures that led to critical information regarding the humanitarian’s operation to not go properly down through the chain of command,” IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Friday.

Seven aid workers – three Britons, a Palestinian, a US-Canadian dual citizen, an Australian and a Pole – were killed in Monday’s strikes on cars operated by the World Central Kitchen (WCK), setting off fury in those countries.

The IDF detailed in its preliminary findings a series of botched assessments and decision-making failures that led to the targeted strikes on three cars carrying innocent aid workers.

Its forces “identified a gunman on one of the aid trucks, following which they identified an additional gunman,” the IDF said, as the trucks transported food to a warehouse in Gaza. It did not provide any more details about that claim.

Later, as three WCK vehicles left the warehouse, a commander “mistakenly assumed that the gunmen were located inside the accompanying vehicles and that these were Hamas terrorists,” the report said.

The IDF officers involved “misidentified something slung over one of the passenger’s shoulders as a weapon,” but forces now believe it was a bag, an IDF spokesperson told CNN Friday.

The spokesperson also said that Israel’s surveillance drones “could not see the WCK logo on the vehicles at night.”

Some of the WCK workers in the first car survived the initial strike and fled to the next car in the convoy, the spokesperson added, only for that vehicle to also be targeted.

WCK and the heads of many Western nations have called for an independent, third party investigation into the strikes, but Israel has committed only to the internal inquiry released Friday.

Though it included a rare admission of guilt from the Israeli military, the IDF’s Friday statement was brief and lacked a detailed explanation of precisely how and why its commands were violated.

It is unlikely to be the final word on a fatal attack that has hardened the ire of Western countries towards Israel’s conduct in Gaza, and accelerated debates in several nations about whether military aid to Israel should be halted.

“The IDF cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza,” WCK said Friday in response to the preliminary findings. “Without systemic change, there will be more military failures, more apologies and more grieving families.”

The charity said it is “clear from their preliminary investigation that the IDF has deployed deadly force without regard to its own protocols, chain of command and rules of engagement.”

“Their apologies for the outrageous killing of our colleagues represent cold comfort,” WCK CEO Erin Gore said. “It’s cold comfort for the victims’ families and WCK’s global family.”

US President Joe Biden called the deaths of aid workers and the overall humanitarian situation in Gaza “unacceptable” in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, adding that US support would depend on “measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.”

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has himself called for a third-party inquiry, said the US was reviewing Israel’s report “very carefully.”

“It’s very important that Israel is taking full responsibility for this incident. It’s also important that it appears to be taking steps to hold those responsible accountable,” he said, adding that “even more important is making sure that steps are taken going forward to ensure that something like this can never happen again.”

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CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Benjamin Brown contributed reporting

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