Three British Aid workers killed in Gaza were ‘heroes’, says charity

Among the seven killed were British victims John Chapman, 57, James 'Jim' Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47 - part of the World Central Kitchen security team.

British victims John Chapman, 57, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were part of the World Central Kitchen security team

Seven aid workers, including three Britons, who were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza will be remembered as “heroes”, the charity’s chief executive has said.

British victims John Chapman, 57, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were part of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) security team.

They died alongside American-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33, Australian national Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, who was the leader of the relief team, Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, and Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25.

The charity’s chief executive Erin Gore said they are “the heroes of World Central Kitchen”.

“These seven beautiful souls were killed by the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) in a strike as they were returning from a full day’s mission.

“Their smiles, laughter, and voices are forever embedded in our memories. And we have countless memories of them giving their best selves to the world. We are reeling from our loss. The world’s loss.”

The World Central Kitchen (WCK) 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 taken to Gaza, the charity said.

WCK immediately suspended operations in the region, while the second of two batches of essential aid will return back to Cyprus, undelivered, depriving the area of hundreds of tonnes of aid.

The charity said last week that the vessels and a barge, travelling from Cyprus to northern Gaza, carried enough to prepare more than one million meals from items such as rice, pasta, flour, legumes, canned vegetables and proteins.

James Henderson was killed during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. / Credit: Supplied

The first ship delivered 200 tonnes of food, water and other aid in March.

Announcing the results of a preliminary investigation early on Wednesday morning, Israeli Lt. Genral Herzi Halevi called the killings a “grave mistake”.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification – at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

“We are sorry for the unintentional harm to the members of WCK. We share in the grief of their families, as well as the entire World Central Kitchen Organization, from the bottom of our hearts.

“An independent body will investigate the incident thoroughly, we will complete it in the next coming days. We will learn from the conclusions, and implement them immediately.”

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had confirmed Israeli forces were behind the “unintended strike” earlier on Tuesday.

Netanyahu said in a statement: “Unfortunately, over the last day, there was a tragic incident of an unintended strike of our forces on innocent people in the Gaza Strip.”

He said officials “will do everything for this not to happen again”.

During a phone call with Netanyahu, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was appalled by the killings and demanded a thorough and transparent independent investigation.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the call involved Sunak reiterating that “Israel’s rightful aim of defeating Hamas would not be achieved by allowing a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

Earlier in media interviews Rishi Sunak had said aid workers need to be allowed to do their work “unhindered” and said it is “incumbent on Israel to make sure they can do that”.

Karuna Bajracharya (left) and Karuna Gurung (right) said they couldn’t believe it when they saw the photos of their “dear friend” Zomi

Lord Cameron said in a post on X, formerly Twitter: “I spoke with Israeli FM @Israel_Katz to underline that the deaths of @WCKitchen aid workers in Gaza, including three British Nationals, are completely unacceptable.

“Israel must urgently explain how this happened & make major changes to ensure safety of aid workers on the ground.”

The Foreign Secretary is attending a Nato foreign ministers’ meeting on Wednesday, where he is expected to encourage allies to “step up and spend more on defence”.

Sir Keir Starmer has called for international law to be upheld as he described the deaths as “outrageous and unacceptable”.

The Labour leader said the deaths were “horrifying” and his thoughts were with the families of those killed.

“We condemn this strike. There must be a full investigation and those responsible must be held to account.

“Humanitarian workers put their lives in danger to serve others. Their deaths are outrageous and unacceptable and it is not the first time aid workers have come under fire in Israel’s campaign.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the aid workers were killed by an ‘unintended strike’ by Israeli forces / Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Sir Keir also repeated Labour’s call for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and full humanitarian access into Gaza.

US President Joe Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the deaths and said he had spoken to WCK founder Jose Andres.

“Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians,” he said.

“Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen. Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians.”

He said an Israeli investigation “must be swift, it must bring accountability and its findings must be made public”.

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