World recoils following Israeli attack on aid convoy

Seven killed including Palestinian, Australian, Canadian-US, Polish, and UK citizens in an Israeli air attack in central Gaza’s Deir el-Balah.

A person looks at a vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike, according to the NGO as the Israeli military said it was conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this "tragic" incident, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza, Strip April 2, 2024.
A person looks at a vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli air attack, according to the NGO [Ahmed Zakot /Reuters]

World leaders have expressed horror and anger following an Israeli air strike that killed seven aid workers in the central Gaza Strip, and reiterated calls for an immediate ceasefire.

United States-based aid group World Central Kitchen (WCK) confirmed on Tuesday that its staff members were killed in a “targeted attack” by the Israeli military. The dead were from Palestine, Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, and US-Canada.

The NGO said its team was traveling in a “deconflicted” area in a convoy of “two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle” at the time of the strike.

WCK called on Israel to stop “this indiscriminate killing” in Gaza, It also announced that it was “pausing [its] operations in the region”.

“Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route,” it said.

World leaders echoed the NGO’s anger, as Israel’s onslaught on Gaza continues to worsen its global image.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed one of the killed aid workers was Australian national Zomi Frankcom.

Speaking at a news conference in Brisbane, Albanese said Frankcom’s death was “completely unacceptable” and “beyond any reasonable circumstances”.

“This news today is tragic. DFAT have also requested a call-in from the Israeli ambassador as well,” Albanese said, referring to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “We want full accountability for this. This is a tragedy that should never have occurred.

“The truth is that this is beyond any reasonable circumstances that someone going about providing aid and humanitarian assistance should lose their life and there were four aid workers as well as a Palestinian driver in this vehicle,” Albanese added.

Israeli strike kills 7 World Central Kitchen workers
A view of the vehicle where employees from the WCK, including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli air attack in Deir el-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip [Ahmed Zakot/Reuters]

Albanese also reiterated calls for a “sustainable ceasefire”. “Australians want to see an end to this conflict,” he said.

DFAT said earlier in a statement that Australia has been “very clear that we expect humanitarian workers in Gaza to have safe and unimpeded access to do their lifesaving work”.

UK Foreign Minister David Cameron described the killings as “deeply distressing”, calling on Israel to investigate and provide an explanation.

“British Nationals are reported to have been killed, we are urgently working to verify this information and will provide full support to their families,” Cameron said on X.

“It is essential that humanitarian workers are protected and able to carry out their work. We have called on Israel to immediately investigate and provide a full, transparent explanation of what happened.”

Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed condolences to the family of its citizen who was killed in a post on X. It added that it “objects to the disregard for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers”.

A foreign ministry spokesman said Warsaw had requested an “explanation from the Israeli embassy, the security forces and the Israeli military”, adding that the ministry was currently relying on information from the WCK.

Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Albares said he was “horrified” by the deaths of the aid workers. “Spain supports their work. We demand a ceasefire and the entry of humanitarian aid,” he said.

Janez Lenarcic, the European Union’s humanitarian affairs commissioner, also condemned the attack and called for a ceasefire.

“This must stop. Now,” he said in a post on X.

Al Jazeera’s Hind Khoudary, reporting from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir el-Balah, where the deceased’s bodies were taken, said she had spoken with the aid workers earlier in the day.

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

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

Several hours later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the strike was unintended.

“This happens in wartime,” he declared. “We are thoroughly looking into it, are in contact with the governments (of the foreigners among the dead) and will do everything to ensure it does not happen again.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies