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Lethal Gaza aid convoy strike sparks row between Poland and Israel

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Copyright AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski and Ronen Zvulun/AP, File
Copyright AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski and Ronen Zvulun/AP, File
By Euronews with AP
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The two countries had recently begun a rapprochement after the fall of a nationalist government in Warsaw that indulged in Holocaust revisionism.

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The death of a Polish humanitarian worker in Gaza has sparked a new diplomatic crisis between Poland and Israel. 

Polish President Andrzej Duda criticised a comment by the Israeli ambassador as "outrageous," while the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw said it was summoning him for a meeting.

A 35-year-old Polish man was killed along with six others while distributing food to Palestinians under siege, working with the organisation World Central Kitchen. Israel has labelled the incident a “mistake” due to a misidentification, despite pictures showing that its vehicles were clearly marked.

Amid shock in Poland over the death of the charity worker, Israel's ambassador to Poland, Yacov Livne, pushed back at what he said were attempts by the “extreme right and left in Poland” to accuse Israel of "intentional murder in the attack".

Damian Soból of Poland, one of seven aid workers who were killed in Gaza Monday, April 1, 2024.
Damian Soból of Poland, one of seven aid workers who were killed in Gaza Monday, April 1, 2024.AP

He said on social media on Tuesday that “antisemites will always remain antisemites, and Israel will remain a democratic Jewish state that fights for its right to exist. Also for the good of the entire Western world”.

Duda on Thursday called the comment “outrageous” and described the ambassador as “the biggest problem for the state of Israel in relations with Poland”.

Polish president insisted authorities in Israel have spoken about the tragedy “in a very subdued way".

"Unfortunately, their ambassador to Poland is not able to maintain such delicacy and sensitivity, which is unacceptable,” he said.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk, while a political opponent of Duda's, voiced a similar position.

He said on Thursday that the comment had offended Poles and the ambassador should apologise.

The deputy foreign minister was quoted in the Polish media as saying that Livne was summoned to a meeting on Friday morning.

A day earlier, Tusk published a comment on social media addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Livne saying that “the vast majority of Poles showed full solidarity with Israel after the Hamas attack. Today you are putting this solidarity to a really hard test. The tragic attack on volunteers and your reaction arouse understandable anger”.

Duda on Thursday also called for Israel to pay "appropriate compensation" to the family of the aid worker, Damian Soból.

Soból had been on an aid mission to Gaza for the past six months following work in Ukraine, Morocco and Turkey.

Polish and Israeli relations have recently been on the mend after several difficult years. Ties were badly damaged due to disputes over how to remember Polish behaviour during the Holocaust, when Nazi Germany occupied Poland and carried out the mass murder of Jews.

For eight years until December, Poland had a nationalist government that played down Polish participation in the German killings of Jews and focused largely on Polish aid to Jews. Israel's government believed that approach amounted to historical distortion.

Israel also objected to a law that limited property restitution claims, something that affected the heirs of Polish Holocaust victims, and recalled its ambassador in 2021 before sending Livne the next year as ties improved.

Duda said that “we agreed to have this representative finally be in Poland to facilitate Israel’s relations with Poland,” but that the ambassador now “is making these relations more difficult.”

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