3 Apr 2024

Who were the World Central Kitchen workers killed in Gaza?

12:05 pm on 3 April 2024
Australian aid worker Lalzawmi 'Zomi' Frankcom who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.

Australian aid worker Lalzawmi 'Zomi' Frankcom who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Supplied/Screenshot

By Hafsa Khalil and Rushdi Abualouf, BBC News

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

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

A journalist working for the BBC in Gaza has seen the bodies of three international aid workers and the Palestinian member of the team. The passports of the three showed them to be from Australia, Poland and the UK.

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.

Lalzawmi 'Zomi' Frankcom

Frankcom died "doing the work she loves", her family said in a statement.

The aid worker from Melbourne, Australia was described as a "kind, selfless and outstanding human being [who] travelled the world helping others in their time of need".

"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 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 Frankcom was "dedicated" and someone who made sure people in need had a hot meal to look forward to every day.

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

Polish aid worker Damian Sobol killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.

Polish aid worker Damian Sobol killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Supplied/Screenshot

Damian Sobol

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has confirmed 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 learned about the deaths of the WCK volunteers, including a Polish citizen.

"These brave 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.

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

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

Colleagues of 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.

Saif Abu Taha

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 Saif Abu Taha, whose body was transported to Rafah, his hometown, where relatives, colleagues and friends carried him on their shoulders.

"He was happy to work with an organisation 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."

British and US-Canadian nationals

The WCK has confirmed to the BBC that three British nationals were killed in the attack.

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said the Foreign Office was working to verify reports of the deaths, adding that full support would be provided to their families.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was "shocked and saddened" by the incident 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.

The BBC said it heard from a US official who confirmed a US-Canadian dual citizen was among those killed.

Canada's Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said she was "horrified" to hear of the Israeli air strikes as she confirmed a Canadian citizen was among the dead.

In a series of posts on X, Joly condemned the strikes and calls for a full investigation.

"Strikes on humanitarian personnel is absolutely unacceptable. International humanitarian law must be respected," she said.

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 1200 people were killed and 253 hostages taken when Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October. About 130 hostages remain in captivity, at least 34 of whom are presumed dead.

Since then, 32,916 people have been killed in Gaza, including many women and children, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

This story was first published by the BBC.

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