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US food aid group says workers killed in Gaza strike

By Aradhana Aravindan and Fares Akram Bloomberg News

Seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen were killed Monday in an airstrike by the Israeli military in Gaza, the disaster relief group founded by celebrity chef José Andrés said in a post on X.

The U.S.-based group has helped oversee the construction of a pier and the delivery of aid through it to the northern Gaza Strip, where humanitarian agencies say hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are living in dire conditions, including malnutrition and hunger.

“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,” said World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore, adding that the organization was pausing operations in the region.

The seven killed are from “Australia, Poland, United Kingdom, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, and Palestine,” the group said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, in the past day there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, without specifying further. He added that Israel “will do everything so that this does not happen again.”

The war in Gaza started shortly after the militant group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and abducting some 250 others. Israel started a military campaign against the group, which is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and E.U., in a conflict that has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, according to authorities in the Hamas-run enclave.

The U.S. is “heartbroken and deeply troubled” by the strike, White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said, calling on Israel to investigate quickly.

The Israeli military is reviewing the incident to understand what happened, spokesperson Daniel Hagari said. He added he had spoken to Andrés and expressed deepest condolences.

“We will be opening a probe to examine this serious incident further,” Hagari said. “This will help us reduce the risk of such an event occurring again.”

Last month, the charity delivered the first shipment of aid via a sea route. Two more ships have set sail from Cyprus and arrived in Gaza.

WCK staffers, along with thousands of volunteers and contractors, responded to disasters in nearly 20 countries last year – feeding war victims in Ukraine, delivering meal kits to earthquake survivors in Syria and Turkey and partnering with local aid groups in Gaza, Israel and surrounding countries to feed war victims and the families of hostages.

WCK said on its website that its teams have set up a field kitchen in Rafah and created a network of community kitchens across Gaza.

“I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family,” Andrés said on X. “The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon.”