Coalition INGO Letter to the White House and National Security Council: Attack on Humanitarian Workers in Gaza

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President Joe Biden, United States of America
April 4, 2024

Mr. President:

We write to you as the leaders of US-based NGOs with staff operating on the frontlines of critical humanitarian efforts in Gaza. The majority of us have seen members of our staff killed or injured, and we fear deeply for the safety of our teams on the ground. This week, seven humanitarian aid workers from World Central Kitchen (WCK), including a US-Canadian dual citizen, were inexplicably killed in an Israeli strike after delivering lifesaving food aid to communities on the brink of famine in central Gaza. All seven of the aid workers killed in the strike were traveling in marked vehicles with WCK logos and their coordinates had been proactively shared in coordination with the Israeli government.

Their deaths were entirely preventable, but they are just the latest example of disturbing aid worker casualties in Gaza at the hands of Israeli forces. In the past six months, 203 aid workers have been killed in Gaza – more than in any recorded year to date. These include aid workers from US-based humanitarian organizations such as Project HOPE, World Central Kitchen, Anera, and Save the Children. NGO offices and other humanitarian facilities in Gaza have also been destroyed, even when deconflicted.

To support international humanitarian law (IHL), the United States has a responsibility to condemn these deplorable actions and hold the Israeli government accountable for failing to protect humanitarians who are delivering lifesaving aid to civilians. These individuals are protected under IHL, and the attacks undermine principles of IHL that have been in place for 160 years. They must stop. Every aid worker who died dedicated their life to helping others in need, and their senseless deaths are a devastating blow to their families, communities, and colleagues. The hazardous conditions facing aid workers exacerbate the already deeply dangerous and precarious conditions we’re facing in delivering humanitarian assistance to Gazans.

People in Gaza have lived in an ongoing nightmare for the last six months. Over 33,000 people have been killed, the majority of whom are women and children. If people are not dying just from violence, they are dying from malnutrition, dehydration, or disease. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are living in overcrowded camps with no access to adequate food, clean water, hygiene, and medical care. Among them are humanitarian aid workers and volunteers helping their neighbors and supporting their own families. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification asserts that famine is imminent, if not already present, and many are already suffering from malnutrition and starvation. People in Gaza need the support of humanitarian organizations now more than ever before.

As a result of recent attacks on humanitarian workers by the IDF, and to reevaluate the threats posed to our humanitarian operations, some humanitarian organizations operating in Gaza have temporarily paused programs. To safely operate and continue providing lifesaving care, we demand assurances that aid workers, including health workers, will be protected and that those responsible for these senseless killings will be held accountable.

We propose that the United States of America demand an independent investigation into these deadly attacks, withhold offensive arms transfers to the Israeli government, establish and maintain unhindered access and operations for humanitarian organizations, and call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the region. With so many lives at stake, there can be no excuse for inaction, or for allowing this disastrous status quo to continue.

Respectfully,

Sean C. Carroll, President & CEO, Anera
Michelle Nunn, President & CEO, CARE USA
Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director, Humanity & Inclusion
Zaher Sahloul, President and co-founder, MedGlobal
Rabih Torbay, President & CEO, Project HOPE
Janti Soeripto, President & CEO, Save the Children US

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