Skip to main content

War on Gaza: Israeli commander behind aid worker killings had demanded ‘siege’ of Gaza

Israel dismissed Nochi Mandel for giving the go ahead for drone strikes on World Central Kitchen convoy
World Central Kitchen workers in Gaza mourn the killing of their colleagues in an Israeli strike, 2 April (AFP/Said Khatib)

The Israeli commander responsible for an attack on foreign aid workers in Gaza had advocated for a total blockade on aid entering the besieged Palestinian territory, according to a report by a British media outlet.

An article by the Telegraph said Nochi Mandel, the chief of staff of the Nahal Infantry Brigade, was a signatory to an open letter published in January, which called on Israel’s government to deprive Gaza of all aid.

Mandel, who lives in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank, was one of 130 officers who signed the letter, the newspaper reported.

On 1 April, the Israeli army launched a series of drone strikes on a convoy of cars belonging to World Central Kitchen (WCK), an aid group working with western backers to feed Gaza’s besieged population.

The attack killed seven people, including a Palestinian and citizens from Poland, Australia, and the United Kingdom, as well as a dual Canadian-American national.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


The killings sparked widespread international condemnation and several of Israel’s western allies faced calls to restrict or stop arms sales to the state.

Mandel was one of two Israeli officers later dismissed from their roles over the attack, which Israel claims was a mistake.

The Telegraph report cites British legal expert and barrister Michael Mansfield, who said that Mandel’s inclusion in the letter must be taken into consideration in any investigation into the killings.

He said the letter was “not indicating that the target of the Israeli army is primarily Hamas but Gaza as a whole by weaponising aid under siege conditions".

‘Car by car’

Shortly after the attack, the founder of WCK, Jose Andres, told the Reuters news agency that the Israeli assault had “systematically” targeted the aid workers “car by car".

Israel's attack on World Central Kitchen is part of its cynical war strategy
Read More »

Andres said that WCK maintained transparent communication with the Israeli military, adding that the army was informed about the movements of his staff.

This was not a "bad luck situation where, 'oops,' we dropped the bomb in the wrong place," Andres said.

"Even if we were not in coordination with the [Israel army], no democratic country and no military can be targeting civilians and humanitarians."

Since Israel began its campaign in Gaza, restricting food supplies to the territory has been one of its primary military strategies.

A total siege was forced upon Gaza early in the conflict but later limited amounts of aid were allowed in after pressure from Israel’s western backers.

As of early April, Human Rights Watch reported that at least 32 people, including 27 children, had died of starvation in Gaza.

In total Israel has killed more than 33,600 Palestinians in Gaza since 7 October. US officials say 25,000 of those killed were women.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.