People gather around the carcass of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen, that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in Deir Al Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024.
People gather around the carcass of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen, that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in Deir Al Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

Seven employees from a team delivering food to civilians, including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza, according to non-profit group World Central Kitchen and the Gaza government media office. Australia confirmed one of its nationals was among those killed.

Those killed in the incident in central Gaza's Deir Al Balah included citizens of Poland, Australia and Britain, as well as one Palestinian, a spokesperson for the media office said.

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"We are aware of reports that members of the World Central Kitchen team have been killed in an IDF attack while working to support our humanitarian food delivery efforts in Gaza," WCK posted on X.

"This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER." In a statement, Hamas said the attack aimed to "terrorise" workers of international humanitarian agencies and deter them from pursuing their missions.

Commenting on the reports, the Israeli military said it was conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of what it called a tragic incident.

"The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with WCK in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza," the military statement said.

White House says 'heartbroken'

The White House said it was "heartbroken" after several people working for World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli military strike in the Gaza Strip.

"We are heartbroken and deeply troubled by the strike," National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson wrote on social media platform X, adding that "humanitarian aid workers must be protected as they deliver aid that is desperately needed, and we urge Israel to swiftly investigate what happened."

Australian PM wants ‘full accountability

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed the death of Australian aid worker Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom and said his government had contacted Israel to demand those responsible be held accountable.

"This is a human tragedy that should never have occurred, that is completely unacceptable and Australia will seek full and proper accountability," he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Albanese said innocent civilians and those doing humanitarian work needed to be protected and reiterated his call for a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza along with more aid to help those suffering from "tremendous deprivation."

'Heartbroken and grieving'

The WCK delivers food relief and prepares meals for people in need. It said last month it had served more than 42 million meals in Gaza over 175 days.

Chef Jose Andres started the WCK in 2010 by sending cooks and food to Haiti after an earthquake. The organisation has since delivered food for communities hit by natural disasters, refugees at the US border, healthcare workers during the COVID pandemic and people in conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

Andres said on X he was heartbroken and grieving for the families and friends of those who died in the airstrike.

"The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon. No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now," he said.

Palestinian health officials said a separate Israeli air strike on a house killed six people in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians were sheltering.

What is World Central Kitchen, the NGO whose workers were killed in Gaza
US-based non-governmental organisation WCK was set up by Michelin-starred celebrity chef Jose Andres and his wife Patricia in 2010 following a major earthquake in Haiti, initially to provide emergency food aid to survivors.

- WCK expanded from there to provide resilience training, meals and support to survivors of other natural disasters, as well as refugees and people affected by conflict.

- WCK has served tens of millions of meals in Ukraine since Russia's 2022 attack.

- WCK was involved in the first shipment of aid to Gaza via a sea corridor from Cyprus in March. A second WCK maritime aid shipment carrying 332 tons of food was due to arrive in Gaza early this week.

- Founder Andres is a Spanish-American chef, restaurateur and cookbook author. His avant-garde restaurant minibar by Jose Andres in Washington, DC, has two Michelin stars. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama in 2015.