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Aid group halts food delivery in Gaza

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — An international charity suspended delivery of food to Gaza on Tuesday, a day after an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen.

Ships still laden with some 240 tons of aid from the charity that arrived Monday turned back from Gaza, according to Cyprus, which has played a key role in trying to establish a sea route to bring food to the territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that the country’s forces had carried out the “unintended strike … on innocent people.” He said officials were looking into the strike and would work to ensure it did not happen again.

World Central Kitchen said it had coordinated with the Israeli military over the movement of the cars carrying the workers as they left northern Gaza late Monday. Footage of the aftermath showed a vehicle with the charity’s logo printed across its roof to make it identifiable from the air. The projectile punched a large hole through the roof. Two other vehicles in the convoy were incinerated and mangled, indicating multiple hits.

Other footage showed the bodies, several wearing protective gear with the charity’s logo, at a hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah. Those killed include three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian, according to hospital records.

The strike could set back efforts by the U.S. and other countries to open a maritime corridor for aid from Cyprus. World Central Kitchen, a food charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, was key to the new route.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said Tuesday that ship deliveries would continue. Israel has barred UNRWA, the main U.N. agency in Gaza, from making deliveries to the north, and other aid groups say sending truck convoys north has been extremely difficult.

The war began when Hamas-led terrorists stormed into southern Israel in a surprise attack on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

More than 32,900 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count. Israel blames Hamas for civilian deaths, saying it operates in populated areas.

The U.S., Britain, Poland and Australia called for an investigation or an explanation from Israel over the aid workers’ deaths. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered the forming of a “profession team” to investigate the strike and the opening of a joint situation room enabling coordination between the military and aid groups.

Andrés — whose charity operates in several countries wracked by wars or natural disasters — said he was “heartbroken” by the deaths of the staffers.

Aid groups have repeatedly called for a humanitarian cease-fire, saying it’s the only way to reach people in need. The United States, Qatar and Egypt have spent months trying to broker such a pause and a hostage release, but the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas remain bogged down.

Hamas is believed to be holding some 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others after freeing most of the rest during a cease-fire in November in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

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Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland; Rod McGuirk in Melbourne, Australia; and Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed to this report.

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