Israel kills food aid workers in latest horrific Gaza strike

Deir el-Balah, Gaza - A food aid organization said an Israeli strike killed seven of its workers in the besieged Gaza Strip on Monday, with the territory's health ministry reporting that four of them were foreigners.

People gather around the body of one of the slaughtered World Central Kitchen aid workers at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on April 1, 2024.
People gather around the body of one of the slaughtered World Central Kitchen aid workers at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on April 1, 2024.  © AFP

"Today, World Central Kitchen lost several of its sisters and brothers in an Israeli army strike in Gaza," said the NGO's founder, chef Jose Andres.

World Central Kitchen, a US-headquartered organization, called the incident a "tragedy" and reiterated that "humanitarian aid workers and civilians should never be a target."

According to the health ministry in Gaza, the bodies of four foreign aid workers and their Palestinian driver were brought to a hospital in the town of Deir el-Balah after an Israeli strike targeted their vehicle.

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World Central Kitchen said its slain volunteers included aid workers from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Palestine, as well as a dual citizen of the US and Canada.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed one of his country's citizens, volunteer Zomi Frankcom, was among those killed.

World Central Kitchen pauses operations

An Open Arms ship and the ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail close to the port of Larnaca in Cyprus.
An Open Arms ship and the ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail close to the port of Larnaca in Cyprus.  © Iakovos HATZISTAVROU / AFP

World Central Kitchen is one of two international NGOs spearheading efforts to deliver aid to Gaza by boat from Cyprus. It is also involved in the construction of a temporary jetty in the coastal territory.

At the Al-Aqsa Hospital, an AFP correspondent saw five bodies with three foreign passports lying nearby.

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

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

The Israeli military said it was "conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident."

Meanwhile, World Central Kitchen has announced it is pausing its operations in the region immediately.

Israel has come under immense pressure to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into the strip after six months of war and stark warnings from the United Nations about the dire levels of hunger stalking all 2.4 million Gazans.

A UN-backed report warned on March 19 that half of Gazans were feeling "catastrophic" hunger and projected imminent famine in the territory's north.

Israel's near-total blockade on Gaza aid

The United Nations has warned that the people of Gaza are facing dire levels of hunger and imminent famine.
The United Nations has warned that the people of Gaza are facing dire levels of hunger and imminent famine.  © MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

Gaza has been under a near-complete blockade since October, with the United Nations accusing Israel of preventing deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The world's top court has ordered Israel to "ensure urgent humanitarian assistance" in Gaza without delay, saying "famine is setting in."

Foreign powers have ramped up deliveries by air and sea, although UN agencies and charities warn this falls far short of what is desperately needed, with trucks still the most efficient way of delivering aid.

The airdrops have also proved deadly in some cases, leading to chaotic stampedes for food.

After the UN-backed report last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was the first time an entire population had been classified at severe levels of "acute" food insecurity.

Israel has killed at least 32,845 Palestinians, mostly women and children, since October, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

On Tuesday, the ministry said 70 people had been killed across the Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours.

Gaza's Al-Shifa Hospital in ruins

The Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City has been reduced to ruins after a brutal Israeli assault.
The Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City has been reduced to ruins after a brutal Israeli assault.  © AFP

On Monday, the Israeli army pulled out of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after an intensive, two-week military operation transformed the territory's largest medical complex into charred ruins.

"There are more terrorists in the hospital than patients or medical staff," Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari claimed, adding that 900 people had been apprehended at the sprawling complex, with over 500 of them "definitely" militants.

A spokesperson for Gaza's civil defense agency said Israeli forces had killed about 300 people in and around the hospital during the two-week operation.

"People trapped in Al-Shifa hospital died of hunger. Some drank water from bathroom drains," Palestinian Anwar el Jondi said.

Medics carting patients and bodies from the destroyed site had to manoeuver stretchers between mounds of rubble.

Several doctors and civilians at the damaged complex told AFP that at least 20 bodies had been found, some of which appeared to have been driven over by military vehicles.

An AFP correspondent saw one badly decomposed body bearing tire marks, although it was not known when it was driven over.

Cover photo: AFP

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