World News 2 Nisan 2024

'This is unforgivable': British volunteer among seven aid workers killed in Gaza

A British volunteer is among seven aid workers who have died after an airstrike in Gaza.

Nationals from Poland and Australia were also killed, as well as a dual citizen of the US and Canada – and a Palestinian who was driving the car they were all travelling in.

Ismail al Thawabta, a spokesperson for a Hamas-run government office in Gaza, said Israel was responsible for their deaths.

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'This is unforgivable': British volunteer among seven aid workers killed in Gaza
Image:
A cargo ship transporting aid for Gaza from Cyprus. Pic: Reuters

The volunteers were employed by the World Central Kitchen, which provides food for displaced Palestinians.

Its chief executive Erin Gore said the team was “travelling in a deconflicted zone in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle”.

Despite coordinating movements with the Israel Defence Forces, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al Balah warehouse, the charity said.

It added it is pausing its operations immediately in the region.

“This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER,” the charity said in a statement.

Ms Gore added: “This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable.”

The IDF said it is carrying out a “thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident”.

In a statement, a spokesperson added: “The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.”

'This is unforgivable': British volunteer among seven aid workers killed in Gaza
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Footage showed the bodies of those killed at al Aqsa Martyrs hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al Balah. Several of them wore protective clothing marked with the charity’s logo.

The workers’ car was hit by an airstrike just after crossing from northern Gaza – and it is believed they were helping to deliver aid that had arrived hours earlier on a ship from Cyprus.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Gaza and are urgently seeking further information.”

Analysis: If aid workers are too wary to move around Gaza, the desperate will suffer

That some of the victims were foreigners, including a Briton, should be of no special significance but it will naturally bring greater attention to the immense risks faced by humanitarian workers operating in Gaza, and accusations they are either being deliberately targeted or hit as a result of reckless soldiering.

This incident is a tragic example of a major, unresolved problem with deconfliction which is having a significant impact on aid and humanitarian efforts.

Aid convoys attempting to reach northern Gaza have either been forced to turn back or simply not made the journey because the risk of being hit by Israeli fire was too great.

Israel has not admitted responsibility for last night’s attack, however in past incidences when it has been confident of its innocence, robust and angry denials have been quick to come. Instead they have announced a “thorough review at the highest levels” – whether that will be enough to reassure foreign governments and humanitarian organisations, I’m not sure.

Aid workers will understandably grow increasingly wary about where they move around in Gaza, and of course the people who will be impacted most by that, will be the desperate.

WCK founder Jose Andres described the volunteers as “angels” who had served around the world – and said he was grieving for their families.

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

“No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese offered his condolences to the family and friends of the Australian aid worker who died in the incident, who he named as Zomi Frankcom.

Mr Albanese said he has contacted the Israeli ambassador to ask for accountability over Ms Frankcom’s death.

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Aid airdropped over Gaza

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Founded by celebrity chef Mr Andres in 2010, the WCK said last month it had served more than 42 million meals in Gaza over 175 days.

Mr Andres described those who died as “several of our sisters and brothers” – and wrote on X: “These are people… angels… I served alongside in Ukraine, Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, Bahamas, Indonesia.

“They are not faceless… they are not nameless.”

The aid ships that arrived on Monday carried hundreds of tonnes of food and supplies in a shipment organised by the United Arab Emirates and the WCK.

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