World Central Kitchen suspends operations in Gaza after strike kills workers

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International food aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK) has suspended its operations in Gaza following the deaths of seven workers involved in an Israeli airstrike.

The charity said those killed were among aid workers leaving a warehouse in Gaza on Monday.

Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu he has admitted that the Israeli army killed “innocent people”.

The Hamas-run media office in Gaza also criticized Israel.

WCK is one of the most important aid providers in Gaza.

It said that “it will be making decisions about the future of [its] work soon”.

According to the charity, the aid group was hit while leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, “where the group unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian aid that they brought to Gaza by sea.”

The group had three vehicles, including two that were armed. The BBC understands all three were hit during the incident.

The WCK said it had coordinated the convoy’s movements with the IDF when it was hit.

A Palestinian medical expert told the BBC that the workers were wearing bulletproof vests with the WCK logo.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said it had recovered seven bodies in total from the crash site following a “difficult operation that lasted several hours”.

The aid group added that the bodies were taken to the Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital in southern Gaza in preparation for transfer across the Rafah border crossing to Egypt.

Netanyahu released a video message on Tuesday in which he blamed the Israeli army for the attacks.

“Unfortunately, in the last 24 hours there was a tragic incident of our soldiers attacking innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” he said.

“It happens in war, we are investigating it to the end, we are in contact with the authorities, and we will do everything to prevent this from happening again.”

The IDF said earlier it was conducting a thorough investigation to understand the “tragic” incident.

“We will get to the bottom of this and we will share our findings clearly,” IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari vowed.

“WCK’s work is important; they are in front of people.”

Mr. Hagari added that the IDF “has been working closely with the World Central Kitchen to help them fulfill their noble mission of helping bring food and aid to the people of Gaza”.

According to WCK, the workers who died were Australian, Polish, British, Palestinian and two US-Canadian citizens.

“I am heartbroken and appalled that we – World Central Kitchen and the rest of the world – have lost good lives today because of this attempted attack by the IDF,” the charity’s chief executive Erin Gore said in a statement.

“The love he had for feeding people, the determination he had to show that humanity rises above all, and the impact he made on so many lives will be remembered and appreciated forever.”

According to Cogat, the Israeli Defense Ministry agency that oversees aid operations in Gaza, the charity accounts for 60% of non-government aid entering the region.

The WCK said in a recent statement that it had provided more than 42 million meals to people in Gaza since October and was ready to provide more than one million.

The charity recently made headlines by donating hundreds of tons of food to the people of Gaza that were carried on the first ship in March.

Aid agencies have begun offering sea aid to boost the flow of money into the region, which the UN says is on the brink of starvation.

But following the deadly attack, a second US aid agency, American Near East Refugee Aid (Anera), which works closely with WCK, told the BBC it was also suspending its operations in Gaza.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed that aid worker Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom is among those killed and has offered his condolences to family and friends.

In his words, he said: “This is another person who was volunteering overseas to provide aid through this charitable organization to the people who are suffering from extreme poverty in Gaza.

He said Australia expected a “full response”, adding it was a “tragedy that should not have happened”.

Wojciech Bakun, the mayor of Przemysl in Poland, said that Damian Soból, a resident of the area, was also among those killed.

Bakun described Soból as a “good guy”, adding that there are no words to describe the feelings of those who knew him.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland said it received reports about the incident and wants the Israeli government to quickly confirm the identity of the injured.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family of a Polish volunteer who was providing aid to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” it wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The UK Foreign Office has said it is aware of the death of a British citizen in Gaza and is urgently seeking more information.

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron wrote on X that British citizens were killed and the authorities are actively investigating to confirm this.

“We have called on Israel to immediately investigate and provide a clear explanation of what happened,” he wrote.

The Palestinian killed in Monday’s strike has been identified as Seef abu Taha – the driver of one of the vehicles that was hit.

Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said on X: “We are deeply saddened and deeply concerned about the deadly strike. [WCK] workers in Gaza.

“Humanitarian aid workers must be protected while providing much-needed aid, and we call on Israel to immediately investigate what happened.”

More than 196 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October, according to the US-Aid Workers’ Security Database, which records major incidents of violence against workers. Not all were killed on duty.

Much of the Gaza Strip has been destroyed during the Israeli war that began after Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing nearly 1,200 people and taking 253 prisoners.

About 130 of the hostages are still in captivity, and about 34 of them are presumed dead.

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

The map shows the three locations where the WCK vehicles were hit

The location where the WCK vehicles were hit [BBC]

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