Israel-Hamas war: Three British aid workers were killed in Gaza airstrike, says charity

2 April 2024, 13:54 | Updated: 2 April 2024, 18:43

Three British aid workers were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) has said.

Nationals from Poland and Australia were also killed, as well as a dual citizen of the US and Canada - and a Palestinian who was driving the car they were all travelling in.

The volunteers were employed by WCK, a non-governmental organisation which provides food for displaced Palestinians.

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It is believed the workers were helping to deliver aid that had arrived hours earlier on a ship from Cyprus at the time.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that Israeli forces were responsible for the airstrike, saying there was a "tragic incident of an unintended strike of our forces on innocent people in the Gaza Strip".

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

His comments came after Lord Cameron said he had spoken to Israel's foreign minister, Israel Katz, to "underline that the deaths of WCK aid workers in Gaza, including three British nationals, are completely unacceptable".

"Israel must urgently explain how this happened and make major changes to ensure safety of aid workers on the ground," the UK's foreign secretary said in a post on the X social media platform.

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In an earlier post, Lord Cameron said it was "essential" that humanitarian workers were protected and able to carry out their work and urged Israel to "immediately investigate and provide a full, transparent explanation of what happened".

The UK Foreign Office also said Israel's ambassador to the UK had been summoned, with development minister Andrew Mitchell saying he had "set out the government's unequivocal condemnation of the appalling killing" of the aid workers.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was "shocked and saddened" by the reports, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also commented, describing the reports as "horrifying".

"We condemn this strike. There must be a full investigation and those responsible must be held accountable," he said in a post on X.

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Meanwhile, WCK chief executive Erin Gore said the team of volunteers were "travelling in a deconflicted zone in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle" when it was hit.

Despite coordinating movements with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), the convoy was hit as it was leaving a warehouse in the central Gazan town of Deir al Balah, the charity said.

It added it is pausing its operations immediately in the region.

"This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER," the charity said in a statement.

Ms Gore added: "This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable."

Israel's former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, described the incident as a "tragic event".

"[It is] totally unacceptable and unjustified. It's disgusting. It's terrible. I think that, first of all, Israel should apologise formally," he told Sky News.

"I understand that the prime minister [Netanyahu] already said something about it, but we have to investigate it immediately and take the necessary measures against those who will be found responsible for it."

"We have no war with this organisation - the World Central Kitchen - they have been very helpful and supportive of providing humanitarian supplies.

"I believe this was a mistake, but these mistakes must be inquired and necessary measures against those who are responsible will need to be taken immediately."

The IDF said it would carry out a "thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident".

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, Israel's chief military spokesperson, said he had expressed "the deepest condolences of the Israel Defence Forces to the families and the entire World Central Kitchen family".

He said the IDF will be examining the "serious incident further" to "help us reduce the risk of such an event from occurring again".