Britons killed in Gaza aid strike remembered as heroes

Britons killed in Gaza aid strike remembered as heroes
Britons killed in Gaza aid strike remembered as heroes
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April 3, 2024, 12:36 BST

Updated 45 minutes ago

Image source, Reuters/World Central Kitchen

Image caption,

John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby were all described as “valued team members”

Tributes have been paid to the three British victims of an Israeli air strike in Gaza.

John Chapman, 57, James Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were among the seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers killed in Monday’s strike.

Mr Kirby’s family said he would be “remembered as a hero” and they were “incredibly proud” of what he achieved.

Mr Chapman’s family said they were “devastated” and that he “died trying to help people”.

As well as the three Britons, Australian national Lalzawmi Frankcom, Polish national Damian Sobol, Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutahas and US-Canadian citizen Jacob Flickinger, were also killed.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said its crews have transported the bodies of the six foreign aid workers to Egypt via the Rafah crossing.

Mr Kirby, who was born in Bristol, had toured Bosnia and Afghanistan with the British Armed Forces before moving into work as a security consultant.

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

“James lost his life trying to save others, he will never know what a void he has left, our family will never be the same.”

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Video caption,

Watch: Cousins ​​pay tribute to “selfless hero” James Kirby

Mr Kirby’s cousins, Amy Roxburgh-Barry and Adam McGuire, told the BBC he was a “true friend who loved his mates and family” and “idolized his mum, who was his world and vice versa”.

Ms Roxburgh-Barry said her cousin “should have been protected” as an aid worker and for him to lose his life in this way was “heartbreaking”.

She said Mr Kirby’s last conversation with his mother, her aunt, was to wish her a happy Easter.

“They were like best mates as well, it was more than a mother and son. I believe that was the last moment she spoke to him.”

Hearing of his death was a “complete shock”, she said. “He has died a hero.”

Mr Chapman’s family said they were “devastated” to have lost an “incredible father, husband, son and brother”.

“He died trying to help people and was subject to an inhumane act,” they said.

“He was loved by many and will forever be a hero. He will be missed dearly”.

Chris Burns, who served with Aylesbury-born Mr Chapman in the military, described him as “very funny” and “very bubbly”. He said Mr Chapman “got on with everybody”.

Mr Henderson, from Cornwall, had served for six years in the Royal Marines before moving to security jobs such as the one in Gaza.

He was a member of the Penryn Rugby Club, which held a gathering on Tuesday night for his close friends and teammates to share their memories of him.

“Clearly this tragic event, which has happened so far from Jimmy’s hometown, will be felt for a long time by his family, friends and everyone in the local community who knew and loved him,” Penryn RFC chair Matthew Gray said.

Image caption,

John Chapman’s family paid tribute to an “incredible father, husband, son and brother”

The three Britons, all former servicemen, were acting as part of a WCK security team, working for Poole-based risk management company Solace Global.

“The men were incredibly proud of what they did and accepted the dangers involved,” managing director Emily Roberts said.

The company said she drove for more than 12 hours to meet the victims’ families after the firm received news of the attacks.

Solace Global non-executive director Matthew Harding said the men were “all valued team members, to whom we were very close” and their deaths were a “truly tragic loss”.

He said it was a “difficult time” for the “close-knit family of an organization,” and that the company’s operations room had been “live with the incident at the time”.

“Our greatest feelings are with their families, their loved ones, and indeed the remainder of the Solace team,” Mr Harding said.

The men had been in Gaza for just over a week because the firm regularly rotates its staff. They were due to return home in days, the BBC understands.

The men’s roles as security advisors were to ensure the convoy followed its safety procedures and remained on the correct route.

Though Israel has said the attack was an accident, Mr Harding said “all accidents are avoidable with the correct control measures” and that, after reviewing the incident, he was “completely satisfied” that all safety measures were correctly taken.

Image source, EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Image caption,

The convoy was made up of three vehicles, including two that were armored, which clearly displayed the charity’s logo

The WCK convoy had just unloaded more than 100 tonnes of food aid before it was hit, according to the charity.

Paying tribute to the victims, WCK chief executive Erin Gore said she was “heartbroken and appalled” at the “beautiful lives” lost in the attack.

The charity’s founder, celebrity chef José Andrés, said the victims were “angels” and called on Israel to stop its “indiscriminate killing”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the deaths “appalled” him. He demanded an investigation in a call with Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Mr Sunak said on the call that “far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza” and that the situation is “increasingly intolerable”.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer described the air strike as “outrageous and unacceptable”, and called for humanitarian workers to be protected and international law to be upheld.

Israel said the strike was “unintended” and that WCK workers were not its intended target.

James Kirby’s cousin Mr McGuire said he was “angry” with the response from Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

“They are not soldiers, they are there to help and feed people. Making them a target is unacceptable. Their response for us as a family wasn’t nice to listen to,” he said.

Much of the Gaza Strip has been devastated during the Israeli military operation that began after Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages.

About 130 of the hosts remain in captivity, at least 34 of whom are presumed dead.

More than 32,916 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

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