Bodies of foreign aid workers killed in Gaza strike to be repatriated

AFP , Wednesday 3 Apr 2024

The bodies of six foreign aid workers killed in a Gaza strike were expected to be transported out of the war-torn Palestinian territory via Egypt on Wednesday as Israel faced a chorus of outrage over their deaths.

US
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. Photo: AFP

 

Israeli bombardment killed seven staff of the US-based food charity World Central Kitchen on Monday in an attack that UN chief Antonio Guterres labelled "unconscionable" and "an inevitable result of the way the war is being conducted".

The remains of the six international staff, who were killed alongside one Palestinian colleague, were set to be taken out of Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, said Marwan Al-Hams, director of the city's Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital.

Israel's armed forces chief Herzi Halevi called the attack a "grave mistake", which he blamed on nighttime "misidentification."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier pledged the "tragic case" would be investigated, saying on the killing that "this happens in wartime.

The seven deaths piled more pressure on Israel, whose war has brought devastation and mass civilian casualties to Gaza, where the UN warns the population of 2.4 million is on the brink of famine.

Israeli war on Gaza has killed at least 32,916 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry.

Overnight, Israeli strikes killed at least 60 more people, the ministry said.

US President Joe Biden charged that Israel "has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians" and called for a "swift" investigation into what he said was not a "stand-alone incident".

 

'Anger and concern'

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had voiced his "anger and concern" in a phone call with Netanyahu, while Britain summoned the Israeli ambassador and demanded "full accountability".

Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote on X to Netanyahu and Israel's ambassador, saying "The tragic attack against volunteers and your reaction are generating an understandable anger."

The charity said it was mourning the loss of its seven "heroes" and "beautiful souls". It said they had been killed in a "targeted attack" that was launched despite the group having coordinated its movements with the Israeli forces.

It named those killed as Palestinian Saifeddine Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25; Australian Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43; Brits John Chapman, 57, James (Jim) Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47; Pole Damian Sobol, 35; and US-Canadian Jacob Flickinger, 33.

After their deaths, the charity suspended operations and a ship that had carried food aid from Cyprus to Gaza turned back to the Mediterranean island with around 240 tonnes of supplies that had not been unloaded.

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