Canada, Australia, U.K. demand answers after Israeli strike kills 7 aid workers in Gaza

Canada and several of its allies called for an investigation Tuesday into an Israeli airstrike that killed seven international aid workers who had been delivering food aid in Gaza.

World Central Kitchen identifies workers, including Canadian

Trudeau calls Israeli killing of aid workers unacceptable

20 days ago
Duration 3:46
A dual Canada-U.S. citizen delivering aid for the group World Central Kitchen was among seven workers killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. In response, world leaders have called for an investigation and aid groups have stopped delivering aid to people close to famine.

Israel said on Tuesday one of its airstrikes had mistakenly killed seven people who had been delivering food aid in Gaza, an acknowledgement that prompted Canada and its allies to demand an explanation.

The strike on the World Central Kitchen (WCK) convoy killed a dual Canada-U.S. citizen alongside Palestinians and citizens of Australia, the U.K. and Poland on Monday, the charity said.

A statement said the workers had been travelling from a warehouse in two armoured cars marked with the charity's logo and another vehicle when they were hit.

Late Tuesday, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said a "preliminary debrief" had concluded the killings were a "grave mistake."

"I want to be very clear: the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers," said IDF chief of general staff Ltg. Herzi HaleviI in a video statement. "It was a mistake that followed a misidentification at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn't have happened."

The charity identified the victims in an Instagram post:

  • Jacob Flickinger, 33, Canada-U.S. dual citizen.
  • Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, Palestinian.
  • Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom, 43, Australian citizen.
  • Damian Soból, 35, Polish citizen.
  • John Chapman, 57, U.K. citizen.
  • James "Jim" Henderson, 33, U.K. citizen.
  • James Kirby, 47, U.K. citizen.

HaleviI apologized on behalf of the military for the "unintentional harm," which ratcheted up international pressure for steps to ease the disastrous humanitarian situation in Gaza, nearly six months into Israel's invasion of the Palestinian enclave.

He said an "independent body" would complete an investigation in the "next coming days."

U.S. President Joe Biden issued an unusually blunt criticism of his country's close ally, suggesting that the deaths demonstrated Israel was not doing enough to protect civilians.

"Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians," he said, adding he was "outraged and heartbroken" by their killings. 

"Incidents like yesterday's simply should not happen."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the attack on aid workers is "absolutely unacceptable."

WATCH | Trudeau condemns 'absolutely unacceptable' strike: 

Killing of aid workers by IDF strike in Gaza 'absolutely unacceptable,' Trudeau says

20 days ago
Duration 1:51
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is 'heartbroken' after the World Central Kitchen lost seven team members when an aid convoy was hit by a strike in Gaza. 'We obviously need full accountability and investigation in this.'

"This is something that never should have happened, and we are heartbroken for the families and for the organization that has been putting people in harm's way to counter the extraordinarily devastating humanitarian crisis going on in Gaza right now," he said Tuesday.

"We obviously need full accountability and investigation in this."

Footage showed the bodies of the dead at a hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah. Several of them wore protective gear with the charity's logo. 

Despite co-ordinating movements with the Israeli military, WCK said, the convoy was hit as it was leaving its Deir al-Balah warehouse after unloading more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza by sea.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a "tragic event."

"This happens in war. We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence," he said in a video statement on Tuesday.

'This is unforgivable'

"This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war," said Erin Gore, chief executive of World Central Kitchen.

"This is unforgivable."

A white van with a "World Central Kitchen" logo is seen with a large hole in its roof.
A vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) is seen on Tuesday after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, in Gaza. Seven workers with the aid group were killed. (Ismael Abu Dayyah/The Associated Press)

Celebrity chef José Andrés, who founded WCK in 2010 by sending cooks and food to Haiti after an earthquake, earlier said he was heartbroken and grieving for the families and friends of those who died.

"The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing," he said in an Instagram post.

"It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon. No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now."

WATCHAndrés on delivering food, medicine to Gaza: 

Palestinians dependent on food aid 'will suffer a lot' after strike kills workers

20 days ago
Duration 0:59
After World Central Kitchen said it would pause operations in the region after an Israeli airstrike killed seven international aid workers, Palestinians who relied on the charity for food lamented the impact it will have on people in Gaza.

The U.K., Australia, Poland and the U.S. have all called for an investigation.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was "shocked and saddened" by the deaths and that his government was working to confirm the details of the slain Britons.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed the death of Australian aid worker Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom and said the deaths were "a human tragedy that should never have occurred."

Albanese said innocent civilians and those doing humanitarian work need to be protected and reiterated his call for a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza along with more aid to help those suffering from "tremendous deprivation."

The Polish citizen killed in the strike has been identified by that government as Damian Sobol. 

The U.S. said earlier there was no evidence Israel deliberately targeted the aid workers but said it was outraged by their deaths and that Israel had an obligation to ensure aid workers in Gaza were not harmed.

The White House said it expected a broad and impartial investigation to be carried out with appropriate accountability.

WATCH | Palestinians say food aid from WCK was vital: 

World Central Kitchen offered food and 'refuge' for people of Gaza, UNICEF rep says

20 days ago
Duration 1:06
James Elder, a UNICEF spokesperson, says he witnessed 'passionate, heartfelt, selfless' work when he recently visited a World Central Kitchen operation in Gaza. The organization offered not just food aid but provided a refuge for those trying to survive the war, he said.

After the killings, WCK said it was pausing its operations in the region immediately and would make decisions soon about the future of its work. In Cyprus, officials said seaborne aid for Gaza civilians would returning to the eastern Mediterranean island.

Israel has been under rising international pressure to alleviate severe hunger in Gaza, which has followed its offensive against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

A UN-backed authority on food security warned last month that famine in northern Gaza was likely by May and could spread across the enclave of 2.3 million people by July.

Israel has denied accusations that it is hindering the distribution of urgently needed food aid in Gaza, saying the problem is caused by international aid groups' inability to get it to those in need.

WATCH l WCK did 'passionate, heartfelt, selfless' work, UNICEF rep says:

How Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen brought 32 million meals to Gaza

2 months ago
Duration 9:42
Chef José Andrés has just returned from his first airdrop mission helping to deliver food and medicine to the people in northern Gaza. Last month, he was on the ground in Gaza and him and the team have provided more than 32 million meals there since the escalating conflict in the region.

Hamas has said the main problem with aid distribution is that Israeli targeting of aid workers. It said Monday's deaths were meant to "terrorize" aid workers and deter them from their missions.

WCK said last month it had served more than 42 million meals in Gaza over 175 days.

Israel declared war on Hamas following its Oct. 7 attacks that saw 1,200 people killed and some 250 kidnapped, according to Israeli tallies. The Israeli government believes some 130 captives remain in Gaza, but some officials have said at least 31 hostages are dead.

A total of 32,916 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed during Israel's military response since then, health officials in the territory say — most of them women and children.

WATCH | First ship delivers food aid to Gaza since start of war: 

Aid ship arrives in Gaza as hunger crisis deepens

1 month ago
Duration 2:09
A ship carrying aid and supplies has landed in Gaza shores for the first time since the latest war began, but humanitarian organizations say it's a pittance of what is needed by the desperate population.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press