Seven World Central Kitchen workers killed in Gaza: What we know

Citizens from Australia, the UK and Poland were among seven people who were killed in an Israeli air strike.

Emergency workers rushing the WCK workers to hospital
Rescuers carry World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers to the hospital [Video obtained by Reuters]

Seven people working with the United States-based NGO World Central Kitchen (WCK) have been killed in the Gaza Strip in what the group’s founder chef said was an Israeli air attack.

The NGO, which provides fresh meals in response to conflict and natural disasters, was set up by Michelin-starred chef Jose Andres and his wife Patricia in 2010, and has been supplying food assistance in Gaza, which the United Nations has warned is on the brink of famine.

Here is what we know so far about the attack:

What happened?

WCK said it was “devastated to confirm” that seven members of the organisation had been killed while travelling in a convoy in Deir el-Balah after unloading 100 tonnes of food aid at its central Gaza warehouse.

It said the group was travelling in a “deconflicted zone” in two armoured vehicles that were branded with the WCK logo and that it had coordinated their movements with the Israeli military.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday described the air strike as “unintended” and “tragic”.

“These things happen in wartime,” Netanyahu said, adding that an investigation was under way. Officials are “checking this thoroughly” and “will do everything for this not to happen again”.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,” WCK CEO Erin Gore said in a statement on Tuesday. “This is unforgivable.”

WCK said its workers came from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom and Palestine. One had dual Canada-US citizenship.

Australia earlier confirmed the death of Zomi Frankcom who had worked with WCK since 2019. She was most recently senior manager for Asia operations in Bangkok, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Australian World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid worker Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom. She is wearing a baseball camp with WCK's logo and a gilet over a black sweatshirt. She is smiling.
Australian World Central Kitchen aid worker Zomi Frankcom was confirmed among the seven WCK workers killed [World Central Kitchen via Reuters]

Gaza’s Ministry of Health also reported the attack.

“Today @WCKitchen lost several of our sisters and brothers in an IDF air strike in Gaza,” Andres wrote on X. “I am grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family. These are people.. angels… They are not faceless.. they are not nameless.”

Their bodies were taken to the nearby Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

“Everyone in the hospital is amazed and astonished, they don’t believe Israeli forces targeted internationals,” Al Jazeera’s Hind Khoudary said.

The Israeli military said it was investigating “to understand all the circumstances of the incident” and making “extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid”.

Andres called on Israel to “stop this indiscriminate killing … stop restricting humanitarian aid … and stop using food as a weapon”.

What does WCK do in Gaza?

WCK was involved in the distribution of some 200 tonnes of food aid that was brought to Gaza via a sea corridor from Cyprus in March.

A second maritime aid shipment involving three ships carrying some 400 tonnes of food is expected to arrive imminently.

The vessels are carrying supplies to prepare more than one million meals, including rice, pasta, flour and canned vegetables.

WCK said it would pause its Gaza operations immediately. “We will be making decisions about the future of our work soon,” it said in the statement.

A WCK ship on its way to Gaza from Cyprus
A Cyprus coastguard patrol boat approaches the cargo ship Jennifer, carrying food aid provided by US charity World Central Kitchen [Hasan Mroue/AFP]

What is the food situation in Gaza?

The UN has issued stark warnings about the dire level of hunger now facing Gaza’s 2.4 million people.

A UN-backed report last month projected imminent famine in the territory’s north, and warned that half of all people in Gaza were feeling “catastrophic” hunger.

The International Court of Justice, which is investigating the war in Gaza as a potential genocide, has ordered Israel to “ensure urgent humanitarian assistance” in Gaza without delay, saying “famine is setting in”.

How have people reacted?

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for “full accountability” for the attack as he confirmed Frankcom’s death.

“This news today is tragic,” Albanese said. “We want full accountability for this. This is a tragedy that should never have occurred.”

Officials in the US, where WCK is based, expressed dismay.

“We are heartbroken and deeply troubled by the strike that… killed @WCKitchen aid workers in Gaza,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson wrote on social media platform X.

“Humanitarian aid workers must be protected as they deliver aid that is desperately needed, and we urge Israel to swiftly investigate what happened.”

What is WCK?

Andres, a Spanish-American chef, set up the NGO after an earthquake in Haiti killed an estimated 220,000 people. WCK initially provided emergency food aid to the survivors of the disaster and says it has now served more than 350 million meals in crisis situations around the world.

“When disaster strikes, WCK’s Relief Team mobilizes with the urgency of now to start cooking and serving meals to people in need,” the group says on its website.

As well as Gaza it is working in countries including Ukraine.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies