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Foreigners among World Central Kitchen staff killed in Israeli strike, Gaza authorities and aid group say

Foreign nationals were among seven aid workers killed in an Israeli military strike as they were delivering food to starving civilians in Gaza, according to non-profit group World Central Kitchen and authorities in the besieged enclave.

World Central Kitchen said its aid workers were traveling in a “deconflicted zone” in two armored cars branded with the charity’s logo as well as “a soft skin vehicle.”

“Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route,” the group said in a statement.

Those killed include a dual US-Canada national, as well as people from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, and a Palestinian, the group said.

“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,” World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore said in the 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,” Gore added.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it is “conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.”

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Tuesday that he had spoken to World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres to express “the deepest condolences of the Israel Defense Forces to the families and the entire World Central Kitchen family.”

World Central Kitchen said it was pausing its operations following the deadly strike and assessing the future of its operations in Gaza.

The Washington headquartered charity provides meals to disaster-struck regions and communities around the world. It is one of the few aid organizations delivering desperately needed food in Gaza where 2.2 million people do not have enough to eat, and where aid agencies warn half of the population is on the brink of starvation and famine due to Israel’s throttling of aid and widespread destruction.

“Today @WCKitchen lost several of our sisters and brothers in an IDF air strike in Gaza,” Andres, the charity’s founder, wrote on X. “I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family.”

“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,” he added.

“These are people…angels…I served alongside in Ukraine, Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, Bahamas, Indonesia. They are not faceless…they are not nameless.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese identified the Australian victim as Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom.

“This is someone who volunteered in Australia to help people during the bushfires. This is someone who was volunteering overseas to provide aid through this charity for people who are suffering tremendous deprivation in Gaza,” Albanese said.

“Australia expects full accountability for the deaths of aid workers, which is completely unacceptable.”

He said the Australian government has already contacted the Israeli government directly, and that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had requested a “call-in” from the Israeli ambassador to Australia.

Polish authorities confirmed that one of its nationals, Damian Sobol from the town of Przemysl, was killed as well.

Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, said he personally asked Israel’s envoy to the country to deliver an “urgent” explanation. Sikorski said he was assured “that Poland would soon receive the results of the investigation into this tragedy.”

Saif Issam Abu-Taha, a Palestinian driver and translator working with World Central Kitchen, was named as one of the victims by Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Gaza.

Hamas condemned the attack in a statement on Tuesday, urging the international community and the United Nations to “take action.”

“This crime once again confirms that the occupation continues its policy of deliberate killing of innocent civilians, international relief teams, and humanitarian organizations, in its efforts to terrorize those working in them and prevent them from carrying out their humanitarian duties,” it said in the statement.

US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said on X that the White House was “heartbroken and deeply troubled” by the killings. Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Beijing was “shocked” by the attack.

Other charities were quick to mourn the losses and praise World Central Kitchen’s commitment to helping those in need in the face of danger.

Matthew Hollingworth, the World Food Programme’s Palestine director praised the “life-saving work” of those killed, while Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland called for an immediate ceasefire.

“Nowhere else are so many aid workers killed,” Egeland said.

Aid workers under attack

World Central Kitchen was “an NGO that that the IDF worked very closely with, because part of what World Central Kitchen did was to bring food to Gaza through the sea,” Ravid said.

“The IDF wanted to show that by working with this organization, it is addressing the food shortages in Gaza,” he added. “And now a few days later, the IDF allegedly hits … aid workers from this organization.”

Ravid pointed out that this isn’t the first time aid workers have allegedly come under fire by Israeli forces. The vast majority of aid workers who have been killed have been Palestinians and their families.

Since the latest war began following Hamas’ October 7 murder and kidnap rampage through southern Israel, at least 165 workers with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) have been killed, the agency said last month.

The World Central Kitchen has made headlines in recent years for coordinating food relief for thousands of people after an earthquake devastated Haiti, Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, wildfires scorched Southern California, and a refugee crisis intensified on the Venezuelan border.

In March, the non-profit led an initiative to ship 200 tons of food aid to Gaza – which it said was the first maritime shipment of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian enclave.

The shipment included enough ingredients for 500,000 meals that World Central Kitchen planned to distribute in the strip, where hundreds of thousands people are on the brink of famine.

This is a developing story and has been updated.

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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