Who were the World Central Kitchen workers killed in Gaza?

  • By Hafsa Khalil & Rushdi Abualouf
  • BBC News
April 2, 2024

Updated 55 minutes ago

Image source, World Central Kitchen

Image caption,

WCK released pictures of the victims

Seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) have been killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza, the charity’s founder says.

The victims were British, Polish, Australian, Palestinian and also included a dual US-Canadian citizen, WCK said.

Arrangements are under way to transport the bodies of the six foreigners to Egypt via the Rafah border crossing.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that the Israeli military hit “innocent people”, describing it as tragic and unintentional.

“It happens in war, we check it to the end, we are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again,” he said in a video message.

Here’s what we know about the aid workers killed.

Ms Frankcom died “doing the work she loves”, her family said in a statement.

The aid worker from Melbourne, Australia was the WCK’s Relief Lead in Gaza. She was described as a “kind, selfless and outstanding human being [who] traveled the world helping others in their time of need”.

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Video caption,

Australian aid worker Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom (seen on the left), who was killed in Gaza, was seen in this recent WCK video

“She will leave behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love for all those in her orbit,” they added.

Last month, WCK posted a video on X of Ms Frankcom at their kitchen in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, which was newly opened.

Dora Weekley, a friend and former WCK colleague, told ABC News that Ms Frankcom was “dedicated” and someone who made sure people in need had a hot meal to look forward to every day.

Ms Weekley with Ms Frankcom in 2019, when they responded to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, and worked with her again during the summer bushfires in Australia.

Damian Sobol, 35

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has confirmed Mr Sobol was killed.

“Our brave compatriot, Mr Damian Sobol from Przemysl, helped people in need in Gaza where there is a humanitarian crisis. He was killed during an attack which the Israeli army has accepted responsibility for,” he said in a video message on X. In an earlier post, he said he had personally asked the Israeli ambassador for an “urgent explanation” for the strike.

Polish President Andrzej Duda wrote on X that it was “with deep pain” that he had learned about the deaths of the WCK volunteers, including a Polish citizen.

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Video caption,

Watch: Archive video shows Damian Soból describes loading trucks with “pots ready to cook 20,000 meals”

“These good people changed the world for the better with their service and dedication to others. This tragedy should never have happened and must be explained,” he said.

Mr Sobol, from Przemysl in south-eastern Poland, was originally identified by the city’s mayor in a Facebook post.

Wojciech Bakun called Mr Sobol a “fantastic boy” and said words could not describe how those who knew him were feeling.

Colleagues of Mr Sobol have posted comments on social media describing how he had taken part in delivering aid to Ukrainian refugees following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25

Mourners gathered in the Gazan city of Rafah on Tuesday for the funeral of the Palestinian driver who was killed in the strike.

Hundreds of people mourned Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, whose body was transported to Rafah, his hometown, where relatives, colleagues and friends carried him on their shoulders.

Image source, Saif Abu Taha

Image caption,

Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha (L) posted a selfie with Damian Sobol (R) on Instagram nine weeks ago

“He was happy to work with an organization that provides humanitarian aid to the displaced, our hearts are broken by your death, Saif,” his close friend Hassan said amid tears, sadness and anger.

“You have hurt us with your passing, and we will not forget you. We pray for your mercy, Saif, and may God give us patience and give patience to your family and loved ones,” he told the BBC.

John Chapman, 57

Three British nationals were killed in the attack. They were all former soldiers who were working for UK-based security firm Solace Global as part of WCK’s security team.

Mr Chapman was one of the three.

His family described him as “an incredible father, husband, son and brother” who “will forever be a hero”.

Image caption,

Mr Henderson was working as a security advisor for WCK in Gaza alongside the other two British men killed

In a statement, they said they were “devastated” to have lost him, adding he died trying to help people.

“He will be missed dearly,” they said.

Chris Burns, who served with Mr Chapman in the military, remembers him as a “very, very bubbly [man who] got on with everybody”.

“He was a very, very funny guy,” Mr Burns said on BBC World at One.

James Kirby, 47

Mr Kirby was born in Bristol and had completed tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan with the British Armed Forces before working as a security consultant.

His family said he would be “remembered as a hero” who will “never know the void he has left”.

Image caption,

Mr Kirby’s cousins ​​described him as a “selfless” person who had traveled all around the world

“James was always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone, even in the face of senseless violence,” they said in a statement.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Kirby’s cousin Adam McGuire said he was “completely selfless” and “just wanted to help people”, which is why he had gone to Gaza.

Another cousin, Amy Roxburgh-Barry, described him as a “true friend” who “loved his mates, he loved his family.”

James (Jim) Henderson, 33

Mr Henderson was the third British man killed.

He had been in Gaza for just over a week alongside Mr Chapman and Mr Kirby. They were due to return home in days, the BBC understands.

Image caption,

Mr. Henderson had been in Gaza for just over a week

The three’s roles as security advisors were to ensure the aid convoy traveling in Gaza followed safety procedures and remained on the correct route.

Matthew Harding, the non-executive director of the security company that employed them, said all three had extensive experience in risk management and were “all highly trained, highly professional”.

He added that their deaths were “a truly tragic loss to both us and indeed their loved ones”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke to Mr Netanyahu on Tuesday evening about the strike. Downing Street said the prime minister told Mr Netanyahu he was appalled by the incident and demanded a thorough and transparent investigation into their deaths.

Mr Sunak said earlier he was “shocked and saddened” and sent his thoughts to the friends and families of the victims. He added that aid charities should be “praised and commended” for their work, which they should be allowed to do “unhindered”.

WCK said those killed also included a dual US-Canadian citizen, who was named on Tuesday evening as Jacob Flickinger.

Image caption,

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said those responsible for Mr Flickinger’s death should be held accountable

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the aid workers as “heroes” who were “simply trying to help fellow human beings”.

He said Washington had spoken directly to the Israeli government and apparently “a swift, thorough and impartial investigation to understand exactly what happened”.

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly echoed the call for a full investigation, saying she was “horrified” to hear of the attack.

“Strikes on humanitarian personnel are absolutely unacceptable,” she said on X.

Large number of aid workers killed in Gaza

More than 196 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October, according to the US-funded Aid Worker Security Database, which records major incidents of violence against aid personnel.

Most of those killed since the war broke out six months ago worked for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which runs the biggest aid operation in Gaza.

About 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostings taken when Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7. About 130 hosts remain in captivity, at least 34 of whom are presumed dead.

Since then, 32,975 people have been killed in Gaza, including many women and children, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

The article is in Dutch

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