The Guardian view on the IDF’s killing of aid workers: a grim milestone in Gaza | Editorial | The Guardian
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The Guardian view on the IDF’s killing of aid workers: a grim milestone in Gaza | Editorial | The Guardian

Even by the standards of a conflict that has killed almost 33,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and created the entirely human-made famine taking hold in Gaza, Israel has crossed multiple lines in just a couple of days. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed seven foreign aid workers, including a dual US/Canadian citizen, three Britons as well as team members from Poland and Australia, and their Palestinian driver, as they attempted to meet some portion of the desperate need. Gaza’s chief hospital, al-Shifa, lies in ruins after a two-week IDF raid. Israel says no civilians died there; the World Health Organization disagrees. And it has killed the Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi and his deputy at an Iranian diplomatic mission in Syria – reviving fears of a wider regional conflagration, and setting a dangerous precedent in targeting diplomatic premises.

Israel and its armed forces boast of following international law. A senior Tory has said that British government lawyers believe Israel has broken it. The former Israeli president Reuven Rivlin has warned that it is “one step away from international ostracism”. While the rhetoric of Israel’s allies has been slowly hardening, and their diplomatic position shifting, polls suggest that the public mood is moving faster. The World Central Kitchen workers were in clearly marked cars, in a “deconflicted” zone, heading away from an aid warehouse, having coordinated movements with the IDF. The convoy was struck not once but three times, killing the fleeing survivors.

Unusually, Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged IDF responsibility, while calling it “unintentional” and adding: “This happens in wartime.” The deaths of the innocent are happening in this war again and again and again. Death on this scale cannot be written off as a series of unfortunate accidents. It is a choice in a conflict that far exceeds any reasonable attempt to pursue those responsible for the horrific Hamas attack on 7 October.

Asking Israel to investigate these deaths, as the UK has done, is absurd given Israel’s history of obfuscation in such cases and avoidance of accountability. (It is banning Al Jazeera under a new law allowing ministers to shut down foreign media organisations.) It is uncomfortable to dwell on foreign lives lost when thousands of Palestinian deaths have received little scrutiny, but the destruction of the relief system is killing many more. Aid ships have turned back in the wake of the attack. Israel wants to dismantle the Palestinian relief agency Unrwa, the only entity capable of responding at scale.

On the international front, Israel seems to have gambled that Iran, and its “axis of resistance”, are too weak to risk a broader confrontation, given its calibration to date. But Tehran will seek to re-establish deterrence and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has already vowed revenge.

In the face of growing unpopularity at home, with tens of thousands of Israelis joining the families of hostages to demand his removal, Mr Netanyahu sees his best hope of survival as a forever war. Israel’s allies are increasingly reluctant to defend his actions, but they won’t stop them either. What would it take to turn US lamentation into action and stop Joe Biden greenlighting an $18bn deal for F-15 fighter jets? Where are the lines now? What will it take for Israel’s allies to say: no more – and show they mean it?

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