Gaza aid convoy strike: what happened and who were the victims?

<span>One of the vehicles struck in the incident in Deir al-Balah.</span><span>Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images</span>
One of the vehicles struck in the incident in Deir al-Balah.Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

What do we know about what happened outside the Deir al-Balah warehouse in Gaza?

Seven aid workers trying to deliver much-needed food to Gaza were killed in an Israeli strike in the city of Deir al-Balah on Monday night. The Israeli government confirmed its military had carried out “an unintended strike”, hours after World Central Kitchen (WCK), an international charity that has brought hundreds of tonnes of food aid into Gaza, said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were responsible.

WCK said the workers – three Britons, a Palestinian, a US-Canadian dual citizen, a Pole and an Australian – had been travelling in two armoured cars bearing the charity’s logo, and a “soft-skin vehicle”.

“Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route,” the charity said in a statement.

Israeli defence sources told Haaretz that the aid workers’ vehicles had been hit three times by missiles fired from a drone because of erroneous suspicions that a terrorist was travelling with the convoy.

Haaretz also reported that some of the passengers left their vehicle after it was hit by the first missile and climbed into another car, which was then hit by a second missile. The third car in the convoy, which approached to pick up the occupants of the second car, was hit by a third missile. The strike killed all of the WCK workers in the convoy.

WCK has paused its operations in the region while it decides on future activities.

Who were the victims?

The Guardian understands two of the three British aid workers to be James Henderson, 33, from Penryn, Cornwall, and John Chapman, 57, who was born in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. The BBC reported the third Briton as James Kirby.

The Australian government named one of those killed as Zomi Frankcom, a 43-year-old Melbourne-born aid worker. It said it confirmed her death with “overwhelming sadness”, adding that “her tireless work to improve the lives of others should never have cost Ms Frankcom her own”.

Frankcom’s family described her as “a kind, selfless and outstanding human being [who] travelled the world helping others in their time of need”.

The Polish victim was named by the country’s foreign minister as Damian Sobol.

“Our brave compatriot, Damian Sobol from the city of Przemyśl helped those in need in Gaza, where a humanitarian crisis is taking place,” Radosław Sikorski said in a video published on X.

“He was killed in an attack for which the Israeli army claimed responsibility,” Sikorski added, saying he would hold a phone call with his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz.

Saif Issam Abu Taha, 27, was identified by relatives and hospital workers as the Palestinian aid worker killed.

His brother, Ahmed Abu Taha, confirmed he had worked for World Central Kitchen as a driver since the beginning of the year. “He was a dedicated young man,” his brother said.

Another brother described Taha to the New York Times as an enterprising man who spoke good English and had worked in his father’s business.

The last time he saw his brother, he told the newspaper, he and others were so excited to about getting to unload the desperately needed food, it was “like they were going to a wedding.”

What is World Central Kitchen and what has it been doing in Gaza?

WCK was founded by a Spanish-American chef, José Andrés, in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. It has since grown into a global charity that has provided food to refugees at the US border as well as working in Venezuela and Ukraine.

Over the past few weeks, WCK has brought about 600 tonnes of food and aid to northern Gaza using a maritime aid corridor that was opened last month. The charity says it has so far provided Palestinians facing starvation with more than 43m meals that have been delivered by land, air and sea.

How bad is the aid situation for Palestinians in Gaza?

At the end of February, the UN said at least 576,000 people in Gaza – a quarter of its population – were “one step away from famine”. In mid-March, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification – a group that includes the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization – said 1.1 million people, half of Gaza’s population, were facing famine.

Related: ‘Man-made starvation’: the obstacles to Gaza aid deliveries – visual guide

Martin Griffiths, the UN’s top relief coordinator, said on X at the time: “The international community should hang its head in shame for failing to stop it … We know that once a famine is declared, it is way too late.”

Aid agencies’ efforts to get humanitarian assistance to where it is most needed have been severely hampered by a combination of logistical obstacles, a breakdown of public order and lengthy bureaucracy imposed by Israel. The number of aid trucks entering the territory by land over the past five months has been far below the 500 a day that entered before the war.

How have people reacted?

In a statement on Tuesday, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said: “Unfortunately over the last day there was a tragic incident of an unintended strike of our forces on innocent people in the Gaza Strip.” He continued: “This happens in wartime. We are thoroughly looking into it … and will do everything to ensure it does not happen again.”

The IDF said it was “conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident”.

Andrés said he was heartbroken by his colleagues’ death and called on the Israeli government to “stop this indiscriminate killing … [and] stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon”.

The British government summoned the Israeli ambassador over the deaths, which the UK’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, said were “completely unacceptable”.

Cameron added: “Israel must urgently explain how this happened and make major changes to ensure safety of aid workers on the ground.”

The Australian foreign minister, Penny Wong, said the death of any aid worker was “outrageous and unacceptable” and said the government was seeking “a thorough and expeditious review” as well as “full accountability for these deaths” from the Israeli government.

The Polish foreign ministry expressed its condolences to Sobol’s family, adding: “Poland does not agree to the lack of compliance with international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers.”

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said American diplomats had already spoken to the Israeli government and urged “a swift, thorough and impartial investigation to understand exactly what happened”.

Canada’s foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, said she had been “horrified” to hear of the deaths, which included a dual Canadian-US citizen.

“Canada expects full accountability for these killings and we will convey this to the Israeli government directly,” she said. “Strikes on humanitarian personnel are absolutely unacceptable.”

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said he was appalled by the deaths and called on the Israeli government to “clarify the circumstances of this brutal attack as soon as possible”.