7 Aid Workers Killed in Gaza Were Known for a Passion for Helping Others

To those who knew them, the World Central Kitchen workers who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Monday were described as devoted humanitarians who would do anything they could to help those in need.

Six of them came from around the world to help deliver and distribute food throughout the enclave, joining the dozens of Gazans already dedicated to relief work. One was a local Palestinian who was excited about volunteering to help others. They had just left a food warehouse in Deir al Balah, a city in central Gaza, when an Israeli airstrike hit their convoy, despite the World Central Kitchen coordinating with the Israeli military. All seven of them were killed.

They are the latest casualties in the growing toll of aid workers killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, and they are among more than a dozen workers who have been killed while doing their jobs.

Gaza has been the deadliest place for aid workers since the Oct. 7 attacks. According to the Aid Worker Security Database, a compilation of data on attacks funded by the United States Agency for International Development, 203 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since the war started. All were Palestinian, except for six of the World Central Kitchen workers most recently killed, who were citizens of Australia, the United States, Canada, Poland and Britain. As of Monday, 176 workers from UNRWA, the U.N. agency dedicated to Palestinians, have been killed, according to the group.

After Oct. 7, 161 aid workers were killed in Gaza in the last weeks of 2023. That total is larger than all aid worker deaths worldwide in every year since 1997, when the aid worker database started collecting figures.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel “deeply regrets” the attack on the World Central Kitchen convoy, a rare acknowledgment of an attack that killed aid workers, and the Israeli military said it was investigating the incident. Humanitarian personnel are protected by international law.

Saif Abu Taha, the sole Palestinian traveling with the convoy, had volunteered with World Central Kitchen since it set up operations in Gaza, said his older brother Shadi. At 26, Saif was an enterprising young man who “wanted to do something for others,” his brother said, adding that he worked in their father’s business and spoke good English.

Shadi Abu Taha recalled seeing his brother depart on Monday for work with other members of the World Central Kitchen team. The workers “were so excited, like they were going to a wedding,” he said, intending to go to the jetty in northern Gaza and unload the desperately needed food aid.

He never saw his brother again, he said.

Lalzawmi Frankcom, 43, who was known as Zomi, was the Australian worker who was killed on Monday. She began volunteering for the World Central Kitchen in 2018 and was hired the next year, according to her former partner, Josh Phelps.

Their last text exchange was on Sunday, just before she and the aid convoy set out from central Gaza. He sent her some photos from their time together delivering food on a reservation in South Dakota. She sent back a heart emoji.

A day later, he found out that she had been killed.

“Anywhere she needed to go, she was willing to go,” he said. “She was following her dreams to make a life around the world.”

Damian Sobol of Poland was described as the “the Michael Jordan of humanitarian work” by a former colleague, Noah Sims, a chef in North Georgia who has been at the site of several World Central Kitchen disaster relief efforts.

They first met while feeding refugees in the southeastern Polish city of Przemysl, Mr. Sobol’s hometown and where he had been studying hospitality.

“Anything I ever needed, Damian could get it done,” Mr. Sims said.

The BBC reported the names of the three British citizens who were killed in the attack: John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby. Local British media outlets described Mr. Chapman and Mr. Henderson as former Royal Marines who later turned to volunteer work.

The seventh worker was a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, but further information about the identity had yet to be released on Tuesday.

Kim Severson and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

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