5 aid workers killed in strike while delivering food in Gaza, Palestinian officials say

Five aid workers with the international humanitarian group World Central Kitchen (WCK) were reported to have been killed while delivering food in Gaza on Monday. The Hamas-run Gaza government media office blamed the strike on Israel — while the Israeli military says it’s investigating the “tragic incident.”

The source of strike could not be independently confirmed. 

Commenting on the reports, the Israeli military said it is “conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances.”

“The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with WCK in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,” the military said in a statement on its Telegram channel on Monday. 

WCK said it was aware of reports that members of its team were killed in an Israeli attack while delivering food in Gaza on Monday.

“This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER,” the organization said in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

The Gaza government media office said four foreigners and one Palestinian were among the dead.

Mahmoud Thabet is a Palestinian Red Crescent paramedic who was on the team that brought the bodies to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza. He told The Associated Press the aid workers were in a three-car convoy that was crossing out of northern Gaza when an Israeli missile hit.

Thabet said he was told by WCK staff that they had been in the north coordinating distribution of newly arrived aid and were heading back to Rafah in the south.

Video footage from the hospital showed the bodies of the five dead. Several of them wore protective gear with the charity’s logo.

Hospital staff showed the passports of three of the dead — they were British, Australian and Polish citizens.

The nationality of the fourth foreign aid worker was not immediately known.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the country’s foreign ministry was “urgently investigating.” 

“I’m very concerned about the loss of life that is occurring in Gaza,” he said in a radio interview with public broadcaster ABC News. “My government has supported a sustainable ceasefire with [a] call for the release of hostages, and there have been far too many innocent lives of Palestinians and Israelis lost during the Gaza-Hamas conflict.”

Hamas, which has governed Gaza since 2007, said the attack on WCK staff by Israel aimed to “terrorize” workers of international humanitarian agencies and deter them from pursuing their missions.

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Group transported food from Cyprus

The WCK, started by chef José Andrés in 2010, delivers food relief and prepares meals for people in need in communities hit by disasters or conflicts.

A flotilla of three aid ships organized by WCK, along with the non-profit organization Open Arms and the United Arab Emirates, arrived in Gaza from Cyprus earlier Monday carrying some 400 tons of food and supplies — the group’s second shipment after a pilot run last month.

The Israeli military was involved in coordinating both deliveries.

The U.S. has touted the sea route as a new way to deliver desperately needed aid to northern Gaza, where the UN has said much of the population is on the brink of starvation.

A man carries a box on his shoulders in a busy outdoor area.
A man carries a cardboard box of food aid provided by World Central Kitchen in Rafah, in southern Gaza on March 17. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

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

In a previous post from Monday on X, the WCK said its teams mobilize across Gaza daily to distribute food to displaced Palestinians.

“Our 60+ kitchens in southern and central Gaza are cooking hundreds of thousands of meals each day like this mujadara, a comforting dish of rice, lentils, and caramelized onions,” it said.

Israel has barred UNRWA, the main UN agency in Gaza, from making deliveries to the north, citing the involvement of some UNRWA staff in the October 7 attacks on Israel. Other aid groups say sending truck convoys into northern Gaza has been too dangerous.

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

Israel declared war on Hamas following the Oct. 7 militant 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.

More than 32,000 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.

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