Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby speaks during a daily news briefing
Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby speaks during a daily news briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on February 10, 2023 in Washington, D.C.
(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

White House Spokesman Condemned for 'Absurd' Claim Aid Bombing Wasn't Illegal

"The IDF has an affirmative responsibility to know what it is dropping bombs on," said former Biden official Jeremy Konyndyk. "Kirby confirms they ignored that."

A former official of the Biden and Obama administrations was among those expressing shock late Tuesday at the Biden administration's comments on Israel's conduct in its continued bombardment of Gaza, in which a U.S.-Canadian citizen is now among the tens of thousands of victims.

John Kirby, the White House national security communications adviser, spoke to reporters at a press conference less than 24 hours after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed seven workers with World Central Kitchen (WCK), and made clear that the bombing of the U.S. nonprofit's convoy in Gaza was not an event that would push the administration to halt the delivery of military aid to Israel.

Kirby appeared exasperated as Selina Wang of ABC News asked how the U.S. "can continue to send military aid into Israel without any conditions."

"Is there no red line that can be crossed here?" Wang asked.

Kirby repeated the administration's frequent remark that it is pushing Israel to make sure the IDF is "precise" and ensuring that humanitarian aid can reach Gaza, where parts of the population are now living in famine, according to a United Nations-backed analysis.

But the spokesperson said the U.S. will not "hang some sort of condition over [Israel's] neck" to ensure the nation abides by international law and refrains from violating human rights—suggesting Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act, which bars the U.S. from providing military aid to countries that impede humanitarian aid, does not apply to Israel.

U.S. law "is in fact a condition hanging over your neck, John Kirby," said journalist Krystal Ball.

Kirby also chastised a reporter for asking whether "firing a missile at people delivering food and killing them" is "a violation of international humanitarian law."

"There is no evidence" that the IDF deliberately targeted the WCK convoy, which Israel claimed it struck unintentionally, Kirby said, adding that the State Department has not observed any violations of international law by Israeli since it began attacking Gaza in October.

Jeremy Konyndyk, the president of Refugees International who previously served in the Biden and administrations at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), called Kirby's remarks "absurd and risible" and called for him to be taken "off the podium."

"Apart from the clearly marked aid convoy that had been cleared with the IDF in advance?" asked Konyndyk regarding Kirby's claim that there was no evidence of a deliberate bombing.

Al Jazeera's Sanad Verification Agency on Tuesday found that, based on images taken from the bombing sites in the central Gaza Strip, the WCK vehicles' roofs and windshields were clearly marked as belonging to the nonprofit group.

According to WCK, the group had coordinated its movements with the Israeli military before the aid workers left a warehouse in Deir el-Balah, where it has unloaded 100 tons of aid, and headed toward Rashid Street in the city.

Jose Andres, chef and founder of the group, toldReuters the IDF targeted the convoy "systematically, car by car."

The attack was not a "bad luck situation where, 'oops, we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,'" Andres told the outlet. "Even if we were not in coordination with the [Israeli army], no democratic country and no military can be targeting civilians and humanitarians."

Konyndyk added that Kirby's defense of Israel, which the spokesman said did not know it was aiming at aid workers, serves as an admission that Israel violated the internationally recognized laws of war, which requires that parties make a distinction between combatants and civilians.

"The IDF has an affirmative responsibility to know what it is dropping bombs on," said Konyndyk. "Kirby confirms they ignored that."

Zachary Carter, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, added that Kirby's defense of the WCK attack was "embarrassing" considering the readily available evidence of deliberate targeting, and his continued claim that Israel is attempting to avoid civilian casualties.

"Israel has killed more than 200 aid workers in Gaza, at least 95 journalists, and more than 33,000 Palestinians," said Carter. "Israel is in violation of a U.N. cease-fire resolution and Gaza is starving. It is not credible to declare each act of violence an unusual aberration from humane conduct."

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