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Claire Porter Robbins is a Calgary-based writer and former aid worker in Gaza.

It’s been two weeks since the killings of seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers in Gaza, and we’ve heard the following rumblings of change: U.S. President Joe Biden had a “candid and frank” conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; some U.S. politicians spoke about possibly placing conditions on military aid to Israel; a still insufficient but greater number of aid trucks are being let into the Gaza Strip; and Western governments are pressing for an independent investigation into how the air strikes happened.

Some commentators framed the tragedy as something of a turning point – and indeed, the killings of Western aid workers seemed to finally stir the United States, Canada and Britain into at least talking about taking much-delayed action. As an aid worker who worked in Gaza in 2022, I felt a reticent, cynical form of optimism – calling for an investigation and merely floating the possibility of conditioning military aid felt like the lowest bar for policy change, but one I welcomed nonetheless.

But now, with the possible ignition of a wider regional war, the conversation has shifted. I fear that our politicians’ attention will be diverted from any traction they have made in holding Israel to account for its killings of civilians in Gaza. Further, we’ve lost the broader thread of public discourse on the hypocrisy, complicity and insufficiency of Western governments’ responses to the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Can we do both – press for de-escalation in the region and continue the conversation on humanitarian law in Gaza? We don’t have an option – we must.

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It’s important to acknowledge, first, why exactly the WCK attacks caused a discursive turning point, and then how we must push Western governments harder toward following through on better aid delivery.

To be frank, until April 1, Western governments had been acquiescent on the issue of aid worker protection and access in Gaza until six WCK workers with Canadian, American, British, Australian and Polish passports were murdered. When this war is over, the heroism of the seven WCK workers killed in the April 1 attacks (including one who was Palestinian) will be rightfully remembered, but the many other Palestinian aid workers killed throughout the past six months will be a footnote. To illustrate: I didn’t find out that two of my former Doctors Without Borders colleagues, both Palestinian, were killed at Gaza’s Al Awda Hospital in November until many weeks later, through a random social media post. They were two of the many Palestinian aid workers killed in this conflict who died without a headline.

The reality is, it has been extremely dangerous for aid to reach Gazans because there had been attacks on aid convoys, workers and distribution points well before April 1. The response of Western governments, including Justin Trudeau and Mélanie Joly in asking for “very clear answers as to how this happened” on April 3, might be perceived as an act of standing up for humanitarian access. But in fact, we did not take action on the issue for six months, even as a man-made famine emerged.

Calls for investigating the killings fall flat for another reason: we already know how these attacks happened. The Israeli government admitted so itself: in three successive air strikes by their military, three well-marked WCK aid vehicles that had diligently shared their movements with the Israeli army ahead of time were nonetheless attacked.

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So rather than asking how the WCK convoy was hit, Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Joly should be asking why, six months into this war, there is no reliable process for protecting aid workers.

Why, when Israel has the capacity to provide clearance to aid trucks entering Gaza, were the WCK aid workers taking a dangerous seaside road to access a floating aid barge? Why, in a territory occupied by our ally, are people starving to death?

I know why we’re not asking these questions. Because the answers would reveal six months of complicity. Complicity is a big word, so I’ll be specific. Complicity is not pressing our allies to condition military aid to Israel. Complicity is continuing to export weapons and technology (including preapproved export permits) when Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, Unicef and other aid organizations’ humanitarian sites are attacked. Complicity is not sanctioning and publicly speaking up against the Israeli government, just as we would any other actor doing the same.

The deaths of six Western aid workers and their Palestinian colleague were outrageous and heartbreaking, but the attacks on humanitarian workers and aid provisions have been occurring for six months in Gaza without appropriate intervention. Now, these workers’ passports have forced Western governments to speak up. We would be failing the WCK aid workers and so many more by turning our attention away from the suffering and starvation of civilians in Gaza.

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