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Jacob Flickinger's mother doesn't believe Israel's explanation for strike

Photo: The Canadian Press World Central Kitchen Quebecer Jacob Flickinger is one of seven humanitarian workers killed by Israeli army strikes in the Gaza Strip.

The Canadian Press in Ottawa

6:12 p.m.

  • Middle East

The mother of the Quebecer killed by an airstrike on aid workers in the Gaza Strip on Monday rejects Israel's explanation for what happened that day.

But Sylvie Labrecque, her voice knotted with exhaustion and grief, remains hopeful that the death of her son, Jacob Flickinger, and six of his colleagues will bring positive change for all humanitarian workers and for the population of the Gaza Strip.

“I feel calm in the sense that I feel like a lot of people are honoring Jacob in different ways,” she said in an interview. So I hope that there will be a positive impact in terms of the possibility of avoiding some of these deaths. »

His son Jacob Flickinger, a 33-year-old former soldier, was one of seven employees of the non-governmental organization (NGO) “World Central Kitchen” who died on April 1 when their convoy was hit by a series of air strikes. drones, after delivering 100 tons of food to a warehouse in Deir el-Balah, in the center of the Gaza Strip.

While a member of the Royal 22e Régiment de Québec, Mr. Flickinger was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. Retired from the Canadian army in 2019, he joined the NGO “ World Central Kitchen” last fall to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of March.

He and his partner, Sandy Leclerc, lived in Costa Rica with their son, now 18 months old.

In addition to the Quebecer, the Israeli strike killed the Australian Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43, the Pole Damian Sobol, 35, the Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, as well as the British John Chapman, 57, James Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47.

The deaths of these aid workers sparked outrage around the world — and even Israel's most ardent ally, the United States, issued a harsh rebuke and warning.

President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call Thursday that continued U.S. support for Israel's efforts to eradicate Hamas in the Gaza Strip depends on concrete measures to protect humanitarian workers and open more access routes for humanitarian aid.

Mr. Netanyahu's office said Friday morning that his Security Cabinet had approved a series of “immediate measures” to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, including the reopening of a key crossing that had been destroyed during the Hamas attack on October 7.

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An internal investigation

Israel also released the findings of an investigation led by a retired Israeli general, who blamed the airstrike on a procedural violation and an observation error on the ground.

The military spokesperson said that under the Israeli army's rules of engagement, officers must have more than one reason to identify a person as a target before they can hit them.

But the investigation determined that a colonel authorized the series of deadly drone strikes based on the observation of a major — from grainy footage from a camera mounted on a drone — that someone in the convoy was armed. That observation turned out to be false, military officials said.

The army said the colonel and major had been fired, while three other officers had been reprimanded, the highest ranking of whom was in charge of the Southern Command.

The results of his investigation have been forwarded to the army attorney general, who will decide whether the officers or anyone else involved in the deaths of the aid workers should be further punished or even prosecuted.

“It’s a tragedy,” army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters. “This is a serious event that we are responsible for and it should not have happened — and we will make sure it doesn’t happen again. »

Sylvie Labrecque maintains that this explanation rings false. “They deny it was their fault,” she said. “People can decide what to think, but to me it’s bullshit. Of course, it was absolutely planned in such a way that that's what they wanted to do: they wanted to eliminate these workers, these humanitarians, [since they] just don't want to feed the refugees. They want them to die, you know. »

Aid workers were using an Israeli military-approved route to transfer food from a makeshift pier, built by “World Central Kitchen” on the coast of the Gaza Strip, to a warehouse in Deir el-Balah, a town between Rafah and Gaza.

In mid-March, the NGO's efforts to build this pier, using rubble from bombed buildings, allowed it to transport aid to the Gaza Strip by sea for the first time in over two decades.

In a statement Friday, “World Central Kitchen” points out that the Israeli report clearly indicates that the army (IDF) “deployed lethal force without regard to its own protocols, chain of command and rules of engagement.”

“The IDF acknowledged that our teams followed all appropriate communications procedures. The IDF's own video shows no reason to fire on our personnel convoy, which carried no weapons and posed no threat. »

The NGO is calling for an independent commission to investigate this tragedy. “World Central Kitchen” suspended its operations in the Gaza Strip on Monday.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116