World leaders, Halimah Yacob condemn Israel air strike that killed 7 aid workers, organisations suspend aid 

More than 196 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October 2023.

Fiona Tan | April 03, 2024, 02:00 PM



Seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) were killed in an Israeli air strike in central Gaza.

Six foreigners, one Palestinian killed

WCK is a charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés in 2010. It delivers freshly-prepared meals to those in need after natural disasters or living in conflict areas.

According to the Times of Israelthe charity partnered with a number of local groups in Israel following the Oct. 7, 2023 attacks by Hamas and has been helping to feed those displaced by the fighting.

Six of the deceased WCK aid workers were foreigners and the seventh was a Palestinian who was driving the convoy at the time, BBC reported.

The workers were Lalzawmi 'Zomi' Frankcom from Australia, John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby from the United Kingdom (UK), Damian Soból from Poland, Jacob Flickinger, who held dual citizenship in the United States and Canada, and Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha from Gaza.

WCK said the team of seven were in a vehicle at the time of the strike.

They were travelling with two other vehicles, all bearing the charity's logo, on Apr. 1, 2024.

The aid convoy was leaving a warehouse in central Gaza, where they had "unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route".

All three vehicles in the convoy were hit during the air strike, despite having coordinated their movements with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and was travelling in a "deconflicted zone", WCK said.

In videos of the incident, a hole could be seen on the roof of the vehicle carrying the seven deceased.

The bodies of the deceased were recovered and sent to a hospital in south Gaza, where they will be evacuated through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.

Israel acknowledges responsibility, calls it a grave mistake

Israeli Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Apr. 2 that the IDF was responsible for the air strike that killed the aid workers.

"Unfortunately, in the last day (Apr. 1) there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip."

"It happens in war, we will investigate it right to the end ... We are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again."

The Israeli military echoed Netanyahu's statement, saying that an investigation was under way, and expressed "sincere sorrow" over the deaths.

The IDF on Apr. 3 addressed the air strike on Apr. 1, saying that it had committed a "grave mistake" due to a "misidentification".

Israeli army leaders said they will share the probe findings "transparently".

World leaders condemned Apr. 1 air strike

Leaders from Australia, the UK and Poland have separately confirmed the deaths of their citizens.

The UK summoned the Israeli ambassador, for the first time in 12 years, to explain the deaths.

In a call with his Israeli counterpart on Apr. 2, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak demanded a "thorough and transparent independent investigation into what happened".

He condemned the "appalling" killing of aid workers and warned Netanyahu that the situation in Gaza is becoming "increasingly intolerable".

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on X, formerly Twitter, that he similarly had a call with his Israeli counterpart Israel Katz and said the deaths were "completely unacceptable".

Leaders around the world have condemned the attack on the deceased aid workers.

United States President Joe Biden released a strongly worded statement on Apr. 2 that he was "outraged and heartbroken" by the air strike on Apr. 1, adding that "Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians", making aid distribution difficult.

On Apr. 3, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong told Katz that Frankcom's death was "outrageous and unacceptable", and added that Israel would continue to lose support unless it changed its course of action.

Halimah fears more Palestinians could die due to starvation

Singapore's former President Halimah Yacob said in a Facebook post on Apr. 3 that the deaths of the aid workers were "tragic".

She noted that this was not the first time that aid workers have lost their lives.

More than 196 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October 2023, according to the US-funded Aid Worker Security Database and reported by The New York Times.

Halimah said, "They came to save lives by bringing food to the starving Palestinians in Gaza but lost their lives instead. They took all precautions to make sure that it was clear that they were not army combatants but were doing charity work, but lost their lives anyway."

She noted that some agencies and countries have suspended aid operations in Gaza in light of the Apr. 1 air strike and said it could cause more Palestinian deaths from starvation.

WCK, which said it has distributed over 42 million meals to people in Gaza since October 2023, announced it will suspend its aid operations in Gaza.

Other aid organisations, such as Project Hope and American Near East Refugee Aid (Anera) have followed suit, halting operations over concerns for their aid workers' safety, the Guardian and the Associated Press reported.

These organisations were said to have plugged the gap by delivering aid in the absence of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees' (UNRWA).

Israel has barred UNRWA, the main UN agency in Gaza, from making deliveries to the north after claiming several of its employees were involved in the Hamas attack that triggered the war.

Halimah said: "The safety of aid workers who are their citizens is the paramount consideration of every country but I pray that food will continue to reach the starving Palestinians in Gaza."

Half of Gaza heading into famine

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an agency that monitors hunger globally, said on Mar. 18 that almost everyone in Gaza is struggling to get enough food now.

Around 677,000 people — nearly a third of Gaza's 2.3 million population — are experiencing the highest level of catastrophic hunger — an extreme lack of food and critical levels of acute malnutrition.

IPC estimates that 1.11 million people in Gaza, around half of the population, could experience famine at any time between now to mid-July 2024 if hostilities do not come to an end and there is no immediate access to essential supplies and services.

According to the BBC, a famine occurs when a country has such a severe food shortage that its population faces acute malnutrition, starvation, or death.

The situation is more dire in northern Gaza, where the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that a famine is projected to occur anytime between now and May 2024.

UN Secretary General António Guterres referred to the IPC report on Mar. 18 and said "This is the highest number of people facing catastrophic hunger ever recorded by the Integrated Food Security Classification system – anywhere, anytime."

He added: "This is an entirely man-made disaster, and the report makes clear that it can be halted."

Top image from @wckitchen/Instagram and @eye.on.palestine/Instagram