Lloyd Austin (L) and Yoav Gallant (R)
Lloyd Austin (L) and Yoav Gallant (R)Ariel Hermoni/IMoD

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday night, following the Israeli air strike in Gaza in which aid workers from World Central Kitchen were killed.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement following the conversation that “Secretary Austin expressed his outrage at the Israeli strike on a World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid convoy that killed seven aid workers, including an American citizen.”

“Secretary Austin stressed the need to immediately take concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza after repeated coordination failures with foreign aid groups. Secretary Austin urged Minister Gallant to conduct a swift and transparent investigation, to share their conclusions publicly, and to hold those responsible to account. Secretary Austin stated that this tragedy reinforced the expressed concern over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, specifically focusing on the need to ensure the evacuation of Palestinian civilians and the flow of humanitarian aid,” the statement added.

It also added that Austin “expressed his admiration for World Central Kitchen and its dedicated staff. World Central Kitchen delivered millions of meals to Israelis displaced by the Hamas attack on October 7 and pioneered the delivery of food to Gaza by land, air, and sea—now totaling over 40 million meals to Gazans in need.”

He also “stressed to Minister Gallant that this tragedy makes it more difficult to flood the zone with humanitarian assistance, as Israeli officials have stated they seek to do. Secretary Austin also raised the need to see a rapid increase of aid coming through all crossings in the coming days, particularly to communities in northern Gaza that are at risk of famine.”

“Secretary Austin reiterated US support for Israel's defense against a range of regional threats,” the statement concluded.

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden had harsh words for Israel following the strike in Gaza, accusing Israel of not having done enough to protect aid workers in the Gaza Strip.

“I am outraged and heartbroken by the deaths of seven humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen, including one American, in Gaza yesterday. They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war. They were brave and selfless. Their deaths are a tragedy,” the President said.

“Israel has pledged to conduct a thorough investigation into why the aid workers’ vehicles were hit by airstrikes. That investigation must be swift, it must bring accountability, and its findings must be made public,” he added.

Biden then went on to say that “this is not a stand-alone incident. This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed. This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult – because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.”

Before Biden’s statement, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi was presented with the preliminary debrief into the incident and stated that the strike was a case of misidentification and the strikes were not meant to harm WCK workers.

“I want to be very clear—the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers. It was a mistake that followed a misidentification–at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened.”