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Countries that lost citizens in aid convoy attack reject Israel Defense Forces report

Four of the five countries that lost citizens in the strike on the World Central Kitchen convoy in Gaza on April 1 have indicated they don't accept the initial Israeli report on those events, released on April 5. The only country that hasn't responded yet is Canada.

Australia, Poland, the U.K. and U.S. all indicate they aren't satisfied — while Canada remains mute

A child looks through a shattered window into the charred remains of a van with a visible World Central Kitchen logo.

Alone among the countries that lost citizens in the Israeli drone strike on an aid convoy on April 1, Canada has yet to indicate whether it considers the matter closed following an Israeli investigation that declared it to be a "grave mistake."

Jacob Flickinger, a Canadian Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, was killed along with all six other members of the World Central Kitchen relief team when their three vehicles were pursued along a Gaza seafront road and struck in succession by an Israeli drone or drones.

The day after the attack, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly used her account on X (formerly Twitter) to call for "a full investigation."

"(Canada) expects full accountability for these killings & we will convey this to the Israeli government directly," she wrote.

Two days later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to reject the explanation offered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the drone strike a "tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip" and added that "this happens in wartime."

"No, it doesn't just happen," Trudeau said three days after the attack. "We need a fully open, transparent, independent and rapid investigation into what happened."

That investigation, he said, must lead to "full accountability."

The White House turns the screws

Israel also heard from U.S. President Joe Biden.

Although he was born, lived and served in Canada, Flickinger was also American through his father. World Central Kitchen is a Washington-based charity founded and directed by Jose Andres, a personal friend of Biden who serves as co-chair of the president's Council on Food, Fitness and Nutrition.

A man with tattoos and a tuque holds a baby and kisses his cheek

The killings led to a phone call between Biden and Netanyahu in which the president took a much tougher line than he has in the past — and put continued U.S. arms supplies for Israel in doubt for the first time.

The unprecedented American pressure for answers about the strike led to a swift Israel Defense Forces investigation under IDF reserve major-general Yoav Har-Even.

Har-Even is also CEO and president of Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, maker of the Spike missile identified by some military analysts as the weapon likely used to kill the aid workers.

Less than four days after the drone strike, Israel reported back.

Dismissed colonel signed letter objecting to food aid

The report described "a grave mistake stemming from a serious failure due to a mistaken identification, errors in decision-making, and an attack contrary to the Standard Operating Procedures."

A reserve colonel and a major were dismissed from their posts, and three more senior officers were reprimanded.

The most senior officer dismissed is Col. (Res) Nochi Mandel, chief of staff for the Nahal Infantry Brigade. The U.K.'s Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday that Mandel is a West Bank settler who had signed an open letter calling on Israel to block aid supplies to Gaza.

Israel's Channel 11 News reported Monday that prosecutors with the Military Advocate General's Corps had not yet decided whether there would be a criminal investigation. If there is one, it will be conducted by IDF military police.

Four of the five Western governments that lost citizens in the strike — Australia, Poland, the U.S, and the U.K. — have indicated since then that they're not satisfied with Israel's response.

Only Canada has not yet offered any public signal about where it stands since the IDF's investigation was released on April 5.

Australia: 'There hasn't been an adequate explanation'

"We don't find the explanations to be satisfactory to this point," Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday, after his government received an Israeli briefing on the incident that killed 43-year-old Australian aid team leader "Zomi" Frankcom.

"One car was hit, then another car was hit, then a third car was hit," he said. "We need proper accountability, we need full transparency about these circumstances.

"We believe at this point that there hasn't been an adequate explanation for how this has occurred."

A man displays blood-stained British, Polish and Australian passports after an Israeli airstrike in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip. World Central Kitchen and a few other aid groups suspended operations in Gaza after seven aid workers were killed by airstrikes. Yet despite the danger, many of the largest organizations barely slowed down. Hunger has become commonplace in Gaza amid the war with Israel, and UN officials warn that famine is increasingly likely in northern Gaza.

Albanese appointed Air Chief Marshal (ret) Mark Binskin, former top commander of Australia's armed forces, as a special adviser to ask questions of the Israeli investigation.

"The special adviser will provide advice to the Australian government regarding any further representations or actions that could be taken to ensure a full and transparent investigation and to hold those responsible to account," said Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

But it's far from clear that Israel will give Binskin the answers he seeks.

The Jerusalem Post this week cited "multiple IDF and Defence Ministry sources" in a report stating that "Israel has doubled down in rejecting a substantive foreign probe."

Polish officials call it murder

Poland, which lost citizen Damian Soból in the strike, has also been pushing for those answers.

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Andrzej Duda — political rivals who agree on few issues — found common ground in demanding that Israel go further.

The district prosecutor's office in Soból's hometown of Przemyśl said that it had "initiated an investigation into the homicide of Polish citizen Damian Soból on the night of 1-2 April 2024 in Gaza as a result of an attack by the Israeli Armed Forces using explosives."

Friends and residents gather to place candles and flowers in honor of Damian Soból, a Polish food aid worker who was killed with six other World Central Kirchen workers by Israeli airstrike in Gaza this week, in Soból's hometown of Przemysl, in southeastern Poland, on Thursday, April 4, 2024. World Central Kitchen and a few other aid groups suspended operations in Gaza, after seven aid workers were killed by airstrikes. Yet despite the danger, many of the largest organizations barely slowed down. Hunger has become commonplace in Gaza amid the war with Israel, and U.N. officials warn that famine is increasingly likely in northern Gaza.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Szejna told reporters on April 5 that Poland wants its prosecutors to participate "in the entire criminal and disciplinary procedure against the soldiers responsible for this murder."

A second deputy foreign minister, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, reiterated that message on Friday, saying Israel's report and the dismissals and reprimands that followed were "inadequate." Polish prosecutors "have classified it as a murder," he said, and Poland expects Israel's "full cooperation" in a murder investigation.

Speaker of Poland's parliament Szymon Hołownia, an important figure in Tusk's government, went even further.

"If someone shoots civilians in war, it is a war crime, very precisely described in international law," he said. "Poland should demand not only compensation for the family of the Pole who died in the attack, but also prosecution of this war crime."

U.S., U.K. add voices to chorus

British Foreign Minister David Cameron described the Israeli report and dismissals "as a first step" but said Britain expects more.

"These findings must be published in full and followed up with a wholly independent review to ensure the utmost transparency and accountability," he said.

The U.S. government, by contrast, said little after the Israeli report was released on April 5 — until Thursday, when it spoke through a UN Security Council statement that called for "a full, transparent and comprehensive investigation into the incident, that is fully publicized."

The Security Council also released an estimate of the number of aid workers killed in the Israel-Hamas war that's even higher than previous reports.

"These horrific attacks brought the number of humanitarian personnel killed in Gaza during the ongoing conflict to at least 224, more than three times as many humanitarian aid workers killed in any single conflict recorded in a single year," the UN body said.

Canada remains quiet

Global Affairs Canada has not responded to multiple requests from CBC News for clarity on whether Canada is still pursuing further investigations, or if it's prepared to let the matter rest.

The government also has not said whether it wishes to involve its own investigators in any probe, or have direct access to the IDF soldiers involved — something that's already emerging as a potential point of contention between Israel, Australia and Poland.

A woman speaks into a microphone.

"I'm disappointed," said NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson. "I think [Joly] should be a lot more active on this, particularly considering that these are humanitarians, that it's a conflict in which more humanitarians have lost their lives, and this is a Canadian. This should be seizing her interest.

"When the foreign affairs minister doesn't comment, the message that she's sending is that she's either not paying attention or she's not interested in ensuring that this is investigated thoroughly."

McPherson said her definition of an "independent" investigation is one that doesn't depend on the IDF. "I have no faith in the IDF's ability to investigate itself," she said.

"To make it truly independent, and provide a result that gives confidence to people around the world, I don't think the Israeli government should be involved in that investigation.

"At this moment in time, when trust is so broken and relationships are so damaged, when there has been so much misinformation spread by both sides in this conflict, I think it's impossible to say that an investigation done with the IDF or even the Israeli government would be seen as credible by many actors around the world. It's just not possible right now and I don't know if it ever was."

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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