Blinken urges swift, impartial investigation into Israeli strike that killed aid workers in Gaza

State Department — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that the United States has urged Israel to promptly investigate an Israeli airstrike in Gaza that resulted in the deaths of seven humanitarian workers. Blinken reiterated the call for Israel to prioritize the protection of civilian lives. 

“We’ve spoken directly to the Israeli government about this particular incident. We’ve urged a swift, a thorough and impartial investigation to understand exactly what happened,” Blinken said Tuesday during a press conference in Paris. 

Humanitarian workers “have to be protected,” Blinken added. “We shouldn’t have a situation where people who are simply trying to help their fellow human beings are themselves at grave risk.” 

Hours before Blinken’s meeting with French Foreign Minister Stephane Séjourné, the charity organization World Central Kitchen, founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres, said that seven of its personnel were killed in the Israeli airstrike in Gaza. The organization declared an immediate halt to its operations in the region.

Séjourné expressed strong condemnation of the airstrike during the joint press conference, saying the situation in Gaza “is disastrous and is worsening day after day. Nothing justifies such a tragedy.” 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said his government will establish a joint situation room with international groups to facilitate the coordination of aid distribution in Gaza alongside Israeli military operations. 

On Monday, France introduced a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council aimed at exploring options for U.N. oversight of a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and suggesting ways to help the Palestinian Authority in taking on responsibilities. 

Last month, the United States abstained from a vote that permitted the council’s 15 members to demand an immediate cease-fire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends next week. 

Ukraine 

Blinken also renewed calls for the U.S. Congress to release military aid for Ukraine. 

“We are at a critical moment where it is absolutely essential to get Ukrainians what they continue to need to defend themselves, particularly when it comes to munitions and air defenses,” Blinken said during a visit to a defense facility in Paris with French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu. 

Congress is yet to approve the Biden administration’s supplementary budget request that would provide aid to resupply Ukraine’s armed forces and help the country fend off Russian offensives.   

Biden has called on the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives to approve the military and financial aid package. House Republicans have delayed action on it for months, prioritizing domestic issues. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that Ukrainian forces will have to retreat “step by step, in small steps,” if Kyiv doesn’t receive the U.S. military aid. 

French Foreign Minister Séjourné was in Beijing earlier this week. He said after a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that France expects China to convey “clear messages” to its close partner Russia regarding Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. 

France and China have sought to strengthen ties in recent years. Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning a visit to France in May. 

During meetings in Paris in February, Wang told French President Emmanuel Macron that Beijing appreciated his country’s “independent” stance. But Paris has also sought to press Beijing on its close ties with Moscow, which have only grown closer since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. 

U.S. and French officials said they are working closely to effectively prevent the transfer of weapons and materials to Russia from North Korea and China, which could fuel Moscow’s defense industrial base. 

The top U.S. diplomat is also set to express U.S. support for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as he holds talks with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.   

The United States and France have been among Ukraine’s top supporters in the two years since Russia launched the invasion of its neighbor.   

The State Department said efforts to bring stability to Haiti would be another topic on the agenda for the meeting of U.S. and French officials.   

Blinken will travel from Paris to Brussels for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers as the alliance celebrates its 75th anniversary.   

While in Brussels, Blinken is also scheduled to meet with Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.   

A three-way meeting of the United States, European Union and Armenia is set for Friday, with the State Department saying the session will focus on “U.S. and EU support for Armenia’s economic resilience as it works to diversify its trade partnerships and address humanitarian needs.”   

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan will lead their respective delegations.   

Separate U.S.-EU trade and technology talks will close Blinken’s stop in Belgium.

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