Foreign aid workers killed by Israeli strike in Gaza named as outrage grows

Foreign aid workers killed by Israeli strike in Gaza named as outrage grows
The UK government summoned the Israeli ambassador for the first time in 12 years to demand an explanation for the killings of aid workers in Gaza
4 min read
03 April, 2024
A funeral was held in Rafah for Palestinian Saif Abu Taha, a staff member of World Central Kitchen, who was driving one of the vehicles hit by Israeli strikes [GETTY]

Outrage is mounting among some of Israel's closest allies following the killing of seven aid workers in Israeli air strikes in Gaza this week, as their names were made known on Tuesday.

A marked three-vehicle convoy delivering food parcels from the charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) was hit by an Israeli airstrike on Monday night as it travelled in a 'deconflicted zone' on the coastal al-Rashid Road.

Three British nationals, a Canadian-American dual national, a Palestinian national, and a Polish and Australian national were identified as the victims of the attack.

The attack triggered global condemnation as governments demanded explanations over the attack from Israel.

WCK identified those killed in the strike as: Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, Australian Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43, Polish Damian Soból, 35, Jacob Flickinger, 33, a US-Canadian dual citizen, and British citizens John Chapman, 57, James Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47.

Chapman, Henderson, and Kirby of the UK were part of WCK's security team.

According to Reuters, the three were former members of Britain's special forces and had recently arrived in Gaza.

Summoning Israeli ambassador 

The UK government summoned Israel's ambassador to London over the killings.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak demanded an explanation in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Sunak described the situation in Gaza is "increasingly intolerable".

In a statement of the phone call from No. 10 Downing Street, Sunak reportedly told Netanyahu he was "appalled by the killing of aid workers, including three British nationals, in an airstrike in Gaza yesterday and demanded a thorough and transparent independent investigation into what happened".

"The prime minister said far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza and the situation is increasingly intolerable," the statement continued.

WCK, which has been working in Gaza since the start of the war, said in a statement on Tuesday that the convoy of two armoured vehicles and one soft-skin was hit "despite coordinating movements" with the Israeli army.

"The convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route," the group said.

WCK has created over 60 community kitchens across Gaza and is one of the main players in the new maritime corridor plan to deliver supplies from Cyprus to Gaza.

It said it was immediately pausing its operations in the territory in response to the attack while the Cypriot foreign ministry said ships carrying 240 tonnes of aid for Gaza would be turning back.

Israel's army chief Herzi Halevi claimed on Tuesday that the strike was "a mistake” following a "misidentification" incident and denied that it was intentional.

He said that the army would take "immediate actions to ensure that more is done to protect humanitarian aid workers".

Israeli military sources quoted by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the incident was due to a lack of discipline among commanders in Gaza rather than a coordination issue between the army and humanitarian organisations.

'Not an isolated incident' 

In response to the killings, Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said the attack on aid workers was "not an isolated incident".

"As of 20 March, at least 196 humanitarians had been killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since October 2023. This is nearly three times the death toll recorded in any single conflict in a year," McGoldrick said in a statement.

"Since October 2023, the oPt has become one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult places to work. There is no safe place left in Gaza."

International humanitarian organisation ANERA said on Tuesday it was suspending its operations in Gaza in light of the attack.

"After six months of constant bombing and flagrant violations of international law…Anera has concluded it is best to pause our operations," it said.

The killings come as Gaza's 2.3 million population comes closer to famine as Israel maintains tight control over aid supplies and UN agencies warn that pockets of the enclave are already in famine. At least 27 people have died of malnutrition in recent weeks, Gaza's health authorities have warned.