Gaza Aid Work Halted by Charity following Tragic Staff Fatality

Gaza Aid Work Halted by Charity following Tragic Staff Fatality
  • By Emily Atkinson & Rushdi Abualouf
  • BBC News

Image caption,

The bodies were taken to a hospital in Gaza

Seven aid workers have been killed in Gaza in what their charity’s founder said was an Israeli air strike.

World Central Kitchen (WCK) said workers from countries including the UK, Poland and Australia were killed.

WCK founder and chef José Andrés said they were killed “in an IDF air strike”. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it was conducting a “thorough review”.

Gaza’s Hamas-run media office also blamed Israel.

The alleged strike could not be immediately verified independently.

A journalist working for the BBC in Gaza has seen the bodies of three international aid workers and a Palestinian driver, recovered from the site of the alleged air strike. Foreign passports were also shown.

WCK later said in a statement that seven of its team had been killed and were Australian, Polish, British, Palestinian and a dual US-Canadian citizen.

“I am heartbroken and appalled that we – World Central Kitchen and the world – lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF,” the charity’s CEO Erin Gore said in a statement.

“The love they had for feeding people, the determination they embodied to show that humanity rises above all, and the impact they made in countless lives will forever be remembered and cherished”.

Ms Gore said WCK was pausing its operations immediately in the region.

She added that those killed were part of a convoy that was hit while leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse in central Gaza, “where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.”

Further details of the alleged attack are still emerging.

Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said on X: “We are heartbroken and deeply troubled by the strike that killed [WCK] aid workers in Gaza.

“Humanitarian aid workers must be protected as they deliver aid that is desperately needed, and we urge Israel to swiftly investigate what happened.”

Image source, World Food Kitchen

Image caption,

Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom appeared in a World Food Kitchen (WFK) video last week

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed that aid worker Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom was among those killed and has offered his condolences to family and friends.

In a statement, he said: “This is someone who was volunteering overseas to provide aid through this charity for people who are suffering tremendous deprivation in Gaza. And this is just completely unacceptable.”

He said Australia expected “full accountability”, adding that it was a “tragedy that should never have occurred”.

A Palestinian medical source told the BBC the workers had been wearing bullet-proof vests bearing the WCK logo. The charity is currently providing meals for thousands of people in Gaza.

In a post on X, Mr Andrés, a celebrity chef, called on the Israeli government “to stop this indiscriminate killing”.

Commenting on the reports, the IDF said it was conducting a thorough review at the highest level to understand the circumstances of this “tragic incident”.

“The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with WCK in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,” it added.

Prior to confirmation that an Australian national had been killed in the incident, the Australian foreign ministry said: “We have been very clear that we expect humanitarian workers in Gaza to have safe and unimpeded access to do their lifesaving work”.

The UK Foreign Office and Polish foreign ministry have been contacted for comment.

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