British aid workers killed in Gaza named as UK demands investigation into Israeli strike

James Kirby, John Chapman and James Henderson among seven dead after attack on humanitarian convoy

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was appalled by the killing of seven aid workers, including three British citizens, in an Israeli air strike in Gaza and demanded "a thorough and transparent independent investigation" into the incident.

Mr Sunak made the comments during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, adding that "far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza and the situation is increasingly intolerable".

King Charles III has asked for specific updates about the strike, which killed seven members of a team from World Central Kitchen, a source told The National on Tuesday.

The workers were killed on Monday evening as they travelled in a convoy through a non-combat zone in Gaza. They were travelling in armoured vehicles branded with the logo of the aid organisation.

The group was hit while leaving a warehouse in Deir Al Balah, despite co-ordinating their movements with the Israeli military, the organisation said.

The convoy was struck by three missiles fired one after the other, Israeli outlet Haaretz reported.

Footage showed the bodies, several wearing protective gear bearing the charity’s logo, at a hospital in Deir Al Balah. The BBC named the British victims as James Kirby, John Chapman and former Royal Marine James Henderson.

"Everybody is gutted, he was a lovely lad," a close friend of Mr Henderson told The Daily Mail. "He hadn't been out there long, only a couple of weeks. The group he was working for broke the news to the family this morning."

Others killed in the strike include Australian national Lalzawmi Frankcom, Polish national Damian Sobol and Palestinian Saif Issam Abu Taha. The US-Canadian dual national has not been named.

Seven aid workers killed in Israeli air strike on Gaza - video

Seven aid workers killed in Israeli air strike on Gaza

Seven aid workers killed in Israeli air strike on Gaza

Mr Netanyahu responded to the strike in a video, saying: "Unfortunately in the past day there was a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip."

He said "this happens in war" and that Israel was conducting an investigation. "We will do everything to prevent a recurrence," he said.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said officials reviewed the incident "at the highest levels” and said he had spoken to WCK founder, celebrity chef Jose Andres, to express his condolences.

“We will be opening a probe to examine this serious incident further,” Admiral Hagari said. “This will help us reduce the risk of such an event occurring again.”

Britain summoned the Israeli ambassador over the incident, the Foreign Ministry said.

"I set out the government's unequivocal condemnation of the appalling killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, including three British nationals," said Andrew Mitchell, the UK's Minister of State for Development and Africa.

"I requested a quick and transparent investigation, shared with the international community, and full accountability."

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a post on X that he had spoken with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz to emphasise the aid worker deaths were "completely unacceptable".

"Israel must urgently explain how this happened and make major changes to ensure safety of aid workers on the ground," Lord Cameron said.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, described the Israeli strike as “outrageous and unacceptable”.

“Our thoughts are with the families of all of those killed. We condemn this strike," he added. "There must be a full investigation and those responsible must be held to account.

“This war must stop now. Far too many innocent people have died in this conflict and more than a million are facing starvation. Labour repeats our call for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and full humanitarian access into Gaza.”

World Central Kitchen has played a key role in getting food into Gaza to help tackle the growing humanitarian disaster in the enclave.

Mr Andres said he was heartbroken by the deaths. “The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing,” he said. “It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon."

WCK staff, along with thousands of volunteers and contractors, responded to disasters in nearly 20 countries last year.

The organisation has fed war victims in Ukraine, delivered meal kits to earthquake survivors in Syria and Turkey, and worked with aid groups in Gaza, Israel and nearby countries to feed victims of the war and the families of hostages.

WCK said on its website that its teams had set up a field kitchen in Rafah and created a network of community kitchens across Gaza. It has suspended its operations after the Israeli strike.

Updated: April 03, 2024, 8:19 AM