Middle East

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

By Abeer Salman, Caitlin Stephen Hu, Muhammad Darwish and Eyad Kourdi, CNN

CNN  — 

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.”

Videos obtained by CNN show the bloodied bodies of multiple victims wearing World Central Kitchen vests following the airstrike in the central city of Deir Al-Balah.

A person looks at a vehicle where aid workers from the World Central Kitchen were killed in an airstrike

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,” World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés 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 national Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom (left) was among those confirmed killed

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.

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.

Aid workers under attack

Barak Ravid, a Middle East expert and CNN’s Political and Global Affairs Analyst, said his sources in Israel painted a picture of “confusion” and “embarrassment” after the World Central Kitchen workers’ deaths.

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.

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