Chairty Founder Expresses Devastation Over Tragic Deaths of Employees, Cites Heartbreak – BBC News

Chairty Founder Expresses Devastation Over Tragic Deaths of Employees, Cites Heartbreak – BBC News
  • By Madeline Halpert
  • BBC News, New York

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

José Andrés founded his charity group after the 2010 Haiti earthquake

World Central Kitchen (WCK) founder José Andrés says he is “heartbroken” over the deaths of aid workers in a strike by Israel – which he has urged to stop its “indiscriminate killing”.

Seven of the US-based food charity’s workers were killed on Monday when leaving a warehouse in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that Israel’s forces hit “innocent people”.

In his statement, Mr Andrés said he was grieving for the victims’ families.

“These are people… angels,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “They are not faceless… they are not nameless.”

“The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing,” he added. “It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon.”

In a separate statement, WCK’s chief executive officer Erin Gore said the killing of the aid workers was “unforgivable”.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,” she said.

President Joe Biden spoke to the organisation’s founder, Mr Andrés, saying he was “heartbroken” over the deaths, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.

Mr Biden “is grieving with the entire WCK family”, she said.

Mr Andrés, a two-star Michelin chef, established WCK in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The group has provided meals in a host of war-torn places, including Ukraine. It has become one of the main suppliers of desperately needed aid to Gaza.

The group has named the seven killed:

  • Jacob Flickinger, 33, American-Canadian
  • John Chapman, 57, British
  • James Henderson, 33, British
  • James Kirby, 47, British
  • Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, Palestinian
  • Lalzawmi Frankcom, 43, Australian
  • Damian Sobol, 35, Polish

The three British nationals killed were part of WCK’s security team, according to the group, while the rest worked for the agency’s “relief” team.

WCK has paused operations in the country as a result of the killings. The organisation said the strike happened despite “co-ordinating movements” with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The IDF said it was conducting a “thorough review” into what it called a “tragic incident”.

Mr Netanyahu confirmed on Tuesday that “innocent people” were hit in what he called an “unintentional” strike.

“It happens in war, we check it to the end, we are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again,” he said.

Mr Andrés said he had served alongside some of the workers providing humanitarian aid in several countries.

“No more innocent lives lost,” he wrote on X. “Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now.”

Video caption,

Watch: Video shows World Central Kitchen vehicles destroyed in Gaza air strike

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