What is World Central Kitchen, the aid group targeted by deadly Israeli strike in Gaza?

What is World Central Kitchen, the aid group targeted by deadly Israeli strike in Gaza?
World Central Kitchen has provided food aid to Gaza since the outbreak of the war and has been operating a sea corridor from Cyprus to north Gaza.
3 min read
02 April, 2024
Seven staff members of World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli strike on Deir al-Balah [Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images]

An Israeli strike on a humanitarian convoy operated by World Central Kitchen (WCK) has killed seven workers, four of whom were international members of the team from the UK, Poland, Australia and a dual US-Canadian citizen.

The strike has prompted the organisation to announce it will suspend operations in Gaza, with the UK, Polish, and Australian governments calling for an investigation into the incident.

But who is World Central Kitchen, which has been part of the international humanitarian aid mission in Gaza?

Who is World Central Kitchen?

WCK is a humanitarian organisation founded in 2010 by Spanish Michelin star chef Jose Andres to deliver food aid and cooking services following Haiti's earthquake that year.

The organisation has since expanded its emergency food relief efforts, conducting operations around the world including in Japan, Morocco, and the Philippines, serving 350 million meals since its founding.

Alongside relief operations in Gaza, it also restarted operations in Haiti amid a humanitarian crisis sparked by social and political unrest and has been operating in Ukraine since 2020 following Russia's invasion of the country.

WCK operations in Gaza

WCK have been operating in Gaza since the beginning of Israel's war on the enclave, opening a field kitchen in Rafah, creating over 60 community kitchens across the strip, and partnering with Jordan to conduct airdrops in north Gaza.

It has also been a key participant in the sea corridor initiative set up to relieve starvation in northern Gaza. On 12 March, one of its ships set off from Cyprus carrying 200 tons of food for a pilot of the initiative.

WCK announced on Saturday that a second mission consisting of three ships had set sail from Cyprus to Gaza.

As well as hundreds of tons of food aid, the second voyage will transport heavy machinery to help offload aid onto Gaza's shore.

In addition to its work in Gaza, its kitchens have been working in Lebanon feeding those displaced in the cross-border exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah.

It is also operating in Israel feeding Israeli's displaced from the Gaza Envelope following Hamas's 7 October attack.

WCK coordinates its operations with the Israeli military and said on Tuesday that it had informed Israel of the movements of its convoy before it was targeted.

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Suspension of humanitarian operations

Since the Israeli strike on the NGO convoy, the organisation has said it would pause its regional operations to make decisions on future aid work soon.

The decision to suspend its humanitarian operations in Gaza comes amid increasing pressure on humanitarian organisations operating in Gaza, which is on the brink of famine.

This includes the UN's Palestine refugee agency UNRWA, which suffered an attack by the Israeli navy in February when a convoy was waiting to enter north Gaza on the Al-Rashid Road.

At least 176 personnel have been killed by Israel since the outbreak of war on 7 October.

Other aid agencies that have lost personnel include Doctors without Borders (MSF), who've said that five colleagues have been killed, and the Palestine Red Crescent Society who've noted the deaths of 14 of its staff.

Israel has killed 32,916 Palestinians in its war on Gaza, with a further 75,500 being wounded, according to Gaza's health ministry.