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Jacob Flickinger, the American father to a baby boy, killed in ‘unforgiveable’ attack on aid workers in Gaza

A dual US-Canadian citizen was among the seven World Central Kitchen aid workers killed in an IDF airstrike while trying to deliver much-needed food to people in Gaza.

Jacob Flickinger, 33, died alongside his colleagues Saifeddin Issam Ayab Abutaha of Palestine, Lalzawmi Frankcom of Australia, Damian Soból of Poland and UK citizens John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby, on Tuesday when the convoy they were riding in was struck.

WCK provides food for people living in disaster zones, including to those in Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing campaign.

The organisation called the aid workers “heroes” and “beautiful souls”, saying they were killed “as they were returning from a full day’s mission”.

Jacob Flickinger (World Central Kitchen/WCK.org/PA Wire)
Jacob Flickinger (World Central Kitchen/WCK.org/PA Wire)

Here’s what we know about Flickinger:

Volunteer, partner and father

Flickinger was a father of a one-year-old baby boy, according to a GoFundMe page set up to help his family with funeral arrangements, as he was the “sole financial provider”. He also leaves behind his partner Sandy.

Flickinger had been volunteering in Gaza since early March, giving food to Palestinians, the page reads.

Before going to Gaza, Flickinger also went to Mexico with World Central Kitchen.

A tribute from Restaurantes en Acapulco on Facebook read: “What sad news our friend Jacob passed away who helped us in the port of Acapulco carrying food everywhere and with whom we lived for several days.

“RIP he told me on one occasion that he came to help and not to distract himself in other things. Hug up to heaven.” it said.

The group also posted a touching video of Flickinger smiling while handing out bottles of water to — and fist-bumping — locals in Acapulco, Mexico.

One photo of Flickinger, wearing a World Central Kitchen-emblazoned shirt, in Acapulco is dated November 2023.

A photo of Jacob Flickinger in Acapulco, Mexico (Jesus Espinosa)
A photo of Jacob Flickinger in Acapulco, Mexico (Jesus Espinosa)

His father John Flickinger wrote a touching message on Facebook paying tribute to his son.

“He died doing what he loved and serving others through his work with the World Central Kitchen,” he said.

Several other friends also spoke of his love of helping others.

Jacob Flickinger posing while holding water bottles to distribute in Mexico (Jonathan Duguay)
Jacob Flickinger posing while holding water bottles to distribute in Mexico (Jonathan Duguay)

Ken Durham wrote on Facebook that he was “saddened by the loss of an old friend in Gaza”.

Meanwhile, Jeremy MacKenzie said Flickinger served in Quebec’s Royal 22nd Regiment. He added that Flickinger “loved to help other veterans rehabilitate injuries and volunteered his services to [personally] train them for rehabilitation and get them back in shape”.

Kened Sadiku, a spokesperson for the Canadian Department of National Defence, told The Independent in a statement that retired Master Corporal Flickinger served with the Canadian Army from 7 April 2008 to 16 October 2019.

Jacob Flickinger helping people in Acapulco, Mexico get food (Jesús Espinosa)
Jacob Flickinger helping people in Acapulco, Mexico get food (Jesús Espinosa)

“He joined as a reserve infantry member with Le Regiment de la Chaudière. In 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan as a Rifleman. In 2012 he joined the regular force as Infantry with the Royal 22e Regiment in Quebec, QC,” the statement said. “We extend our sincere condolences to their family, friends, and former colleagues during this difficult time.”

The GoFundMe had already raised more than C$22,000 by Wednesday afternoon.

Jonathan “Rusty” Duguay, who co-organized the GoFundMe, told The Independent that he and Flickinger were “brothers in arms in Afghanistan.”

He called Flickinger a “problem solver,” adding that “he loved helping people” and was “passionate about the work we were doing” at WCK.

“He was a family man, very dedicated to his partner and kid,” Mr Duguay added.

Mr Duguay joined WCK in September 2023 after an earthquake rampaged Morocco. He said he “found a lot of purpose in the work I was doing and thought it would be good for him too.” Months later, in November 2023, the two of them went to Acapulco, Mexico to help locals after the hurricane devastated the region.

Jacob Flickinger hugging children in Acapulco while on a WCK mission (Jonathan Duguay)
Jacob Flickinger hugging children in Acapulco while on a WCK mission (Jonathan Duguay)

More recently, Mr Duguay said they worked together, but on “two ends of the humanitarian mission” in Gaza. While Mr Duguay was based in Cyprus, loading the ships, Flickinger was based in Gaza receiving and distributing the food. “We spoke almost every day about our experiences,” Mr Duguay recalled.

Although this was a “very tragic loss,” Mr Duguay said, “that doesn’t and shouldn’t take away from the very important work that WCK and its volunteers do.

Mr Duguay said he and Flickinger’s family “are staying positive.” They still “believe in the work he was doing,” he added.

Flickinger had been scheduled to leave Gaza soon

John Flickinger, Jacob’s father, told the Daily Beast that his son was planning on heading to Cairo, Egypt by the end of the week to “reassess what their needs were and how they’re going to proceed.”

“The situation was changing daily on the ground with Israel threatening to attack Rafah,” Mr Flickinger told the outlet. “That was the last text from him, that he’s going to reassess at the end of the week in Cairo.”

“But he loved to work with the World Central Kitchen. He believed in their mission. And when the opportunity came to Gaza, he was hesitant, but the need was so great,” the father added.

Mr Flickinger also described how his son had “changed Jacob in many ways.”

“He became very, very focused on raising his son… and they moved to Costa Rica to start a new, kind of a new life there and kind of build a life in a nice tropical country,” he said.

Flickinger was “the best friend anyone could ever have,” his father told the outlet.

Reactions to the strike on the aid workers

World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore released a statement slamming the attack on the aid workers as “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. This is unforgivable,” she said.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, WCK founder and celebrity chef José Andrés wrote that the aid workers “risked everything for the most fundamentally human activity: to share our food with others”.

He called them “the best of humanity.”

President Joe Biden also said in a statement that he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the news.

“I am outraged and heartbroken by the deaths of seven humanitarian workers from World Central Kitchen, including one American, in Gaza yesterday,” he said.

Seven victims of the strike (World Central Kitchen/PA)
Seven victims of the strike (World Central Kitchen/PA)

“They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war. They were brave and selfless. Their deaths are a tragedy.”

White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby said at a Tuesday press conference that it is “clear” that the IDF “must do much more to improve deconfliction processes so that civilians and humanitarian aid workers are protected”.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly tweeted she was “horrified to hear reports of the IDF strike” and called for “full accountability for these killings”.

“Strikes on humanitarian personnel are absolutely unacceptable,” she added.

“Unfortunately over the last day there was a tragic incident of an unintended strike of our forces on innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, promising that Israeli officials were thoroughly “checking” into the incident and that the country’s armed forces “will do everything for this not to happen again”.