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Who were the World Central Kitchen workers killed in Israel’s strike in Gaza?

The non-profit World Central Kitchen (WCK) has named its seven aid workers who were killed in an Israeli military strike in Gaza on Monday, praising their “beautiful souls,” as international condemnation over the incident grows.

A dual US-Canada national, a Palestinian, three Brits, an Australian, and a Pole were killed when an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strike hit a returning WCK convoy.

“These are the heroes of WCK,” the organization’s CEO Erin Gore said in a statement revealing their identities. “These 7 beautiful souls were killed by the IDF in a strike as they were returning from a full day’s mission. Their smiles, laughter, and voices are forever embedded in our memories.”

The IDF said the incident is being investigated, that the strike was a “grave mistake” and that it did not intend to harm the aid workers.

WCK named the workers killed as (from top left) Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Laizawmi "Zomi" Frankcom, Damian Soból, Jacob Flinkinger, John Chapman, James "Jim" Henderson and James Kirby. - From World Central Kitchen
WCK named the workers killed as (from top left) Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Laizawmi "Zomi" Frankcom, Damian Soból, Jacob Flinkinger, John Chapman, James "Jim" Henderson and James Kirby. - From World Central Kitchen

John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby

The three Brits killed were John Chapman, 57, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, and 47-year-old James Kirby. All three worked in WCK’s security team, the organization said.

Kirby was a military veteran who had previously served in the British armed forces in Afghanistan and Bosnia, his family said.

Adam McGuire, a cousin of Kirby, told Sky News on Wednesday he was “disappointed in [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu’s response yesterday, in not saying sorry to the individuals,” and that he hoped the deaths of the seven workers would be a “turning point” that caused aid to flow more freely into Gaza.

The family of Chapman said in a statement that he will “forever be a hero,” and said their relative “died trying to help people,” PA Media reported Wednesday, which added he is believed to be a former marine.

Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha

The other four people killed worked in the relief team. They included Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, who at 25 was the youngest of the casualties, and had been volunteering as a driver with WCK.

Ahmad Al-Madhoun, a colleague, wrote on Facebook: “I met him during my last visit to the @WCKitchen office. A friend told me that Seif would help solve any problem if you asked him. Seif was full of hope.”

He attended university in Ajman, in the United Arab Emirates, and had been living in Dubai, according to his Facebook page.

Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha was the youngest person killed. - From World Central Kitchen
Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha was the youngest person killed. - From World Central Kitchen

Jacob Flickinger

Jacob Flickinger, 33, was a US-Canadian dual citizen.

Samantha Power, the US’ top humanitarian aid official, said the deaths of Flickinger and his colleagues were “deeply alarming,” and President Joe Biden wrote that he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the incident.

Biden’s statement included some of the most blunt and direct language he has used towards Israel since the start of the war; the strike raised the frustration for Biden and his top officials to a new level, a senior administration official told CNN.

Flickinger was a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. - From World Central Kitchen
Flickinger was a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. - From World Central Kitchen

Damian Sobol

Polish authorities confirmed that one of its nationals, Damian Sobol, from the town of Przemysl in southeast Poland, was among those killed.

“Yesterday, our colleague, resident of Przemyśl, volunteer, member of the World Central Kitchen team, Damian Soból, was killed in a rocket attack by Israeli forces on a humanitarian convoy delivering food in the Gaza Strip,” mayor Wojciech Bakun said in a post on social media on Tuesday.

“There are no words to describe what people who knew this fantastic boy feel at this moment… May he rest in peace,” the mayor added.

Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk condemned the attack, and said in a post on X that Netanyahu was testing Poland’s solidarity with Israel.

Sobol was praised by the mayor of his hometown. - From World Central Kitchen
Sobol was praised by the mayor of his hometown. - From World Central Kitchen

Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, citing her previous humanitarian efforts.

“This is someone who volunteered in Australia to help people during the bushfires. This is someone who was volunteering overseas to provide aid through this charity for people who are suffering tremendous deprivation in Gaza,” Albanese said.

Frankcom had worked with WCK since 2019, most recently as a senior manager of its operations in Asia, according to her LinkedIn page.

“She was a kind, selfless and outstanding human being that has traveled the world helping others in their time of need. She will leave behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love for all those in her orbit,” the Frankcom family said in a statement to CNN affiliate Channel 9.

Frankcom in a picture published by WCK. - From World Central Kitchen
Frankcom in a picture published by WCK. - From World Central Kitchen

What is the World Central Kitchen?

The WCK has provided food aid in warzones and regions recovering from natural disasters since its founding by chef José Andrés in 2010.

Andrés created the organization after traveling to Haiti that year to cook for civilians following a devastating earthquake, which it is estimated left as many as 300,000 people dead.

Since then, the WCK has quickly become one of the world’s foremost food aid providers.

It distributed millions of meals to displaced Ukrainians after Russia’s invasion of the country in 2022, and has been active in Gaza since Israel’s war with Hamas started in October.

In a Reuters interview, Andres accused Israel of “systematically” targeting the seven WCK aid workers. This was not a “bad luck situation where, ‘oops,’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,” Andres told Reuters. “Even if we were not in coordination with the (Israel Defense Forces), no democratic country and no military can be targeting civilians and humanitarians.”

The organization has since called on the governments of Australia, Canada, the US, Poland, and the United Kingdom to back their demands for “an independent, third-party investigation” into the multiple strikes that killed their aid workers.

WCK said they have asked the Israeli government “to immediately preserve all documents, communications, video and/or audio recordings, and any other materials potentially relevant” to the strikes in order to “ensure the integrity of the investigation.”

WCK workers provided 11.5 million meals in the first 10 weeks of the war, the non-profit said, before overcoming “immense challenges” to open a kitchen in the enclave.

Its workers coordinated with teams in Cairo, Egypt to ship wood and charcoal pellets and developed wood-burning stoves in order to set up a kitchen capable of cooking meals at capacity, WCK said in December.

The shipment came as Gaza’s humanitarian crisis grew increasingly dire. Gazans desperate for food have crowded rare distribution points in recent weeks, and a UN-backed report found last month that all 2.2 million people in Gaza do not have enough food to eat, with half of the population on the brink of starvation.

Last month, the NGO launched a first aid ship from Cyprus to Gaza, and told CNN they would use the shipment to distribute 200 tons of food, which equates to roughly 500,000 meals.

In the wake of Monday’s strike, WCK announced it was pausing its operations in Gaza.

CNN’s Hira Humayun, MJ Lee, Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

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