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DEIR AL-BALAH, GAZA: Residents inspect the damaged vehicle carrying Western employees after Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on 2 April 2024. Seven staff members of the humanitarian organization World Central Kitchen, including Western nationals participating in food relief efforts and a Palestinian, were killed in the strike. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images)

World Central Kitchen Pauses Gaza Operations After Deadly Air Strike

International food charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) is suspending its operations in Gaza after an Israeli air strike killed seven of its workers. The people killed were part of an aid convoy leaving a warehouse in central Gaza Monday, the BBC reported.

According to the charity, the aid convoy was made up of three vehicles, including two WCK-marked armored vehicles, traveling in a “deconflicted zone.” All three vehicles were hit, the BBC reported. WCK said it had coordinated the convoy’s movements with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) before the attack.

The IDF said it is conducting a “thorough review” into the incident. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the strike “unintentional,” adding that, “as it happens in war, we are investigating the matter fully, we are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything possible to prevent this from happening again.”

In a statement, WCK said it was “devastated” to confirm the deaths of its team members in Gaza. 

“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 WCK CEO Erin Gore.

WCK, founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, regularly provides in-person aid and meals in conflict zones and natural disaster sites. Since the start of the conflict in Gaza, WCK teams established a field kitchen in Rafah and created a network of community kitchens across Gaza to feed people in need. The organization estimates it has provided more than 35 million hot meals in the region since October 2023. It is also one of the main suppliers of aid to Gaza, but it has paused operations in the region in the aftermath of the strike, and “will be making decisions about the future of our work soon.”

The strike caused at least one other aid group, the American Near East Refugee Aid organization, to pause operations distributing meals to Gazans. Any lengthy pause will have a devastating effect on Gazans, according to the organization’s emergency response team member Naser Qadous, because the region is on the brink of famine, The Washington Post explained.

The seven charity workers killed were from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, and Palestine. The strike is believed to be the first to kill foreigners working for an international aid organization in Gaza since the start of the war in October 2023, the Post reported, although many Palestinians employed by the United Nations have been killed.

At least 196 humanitarians have been killed in Gaza between October 2023 and 20 March 2024, according to a statement from Jamie McGoldrick, UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). “This is nearly three times the death toll recorded in any single conflict in a year,” the statement said.

“Since October 2023, the oPt has become one of the world’s most dangerous and difficult places to work,” McGoldrick said. “There is no safe place left in Gaza.

“All parties to the conflict, including the Government of Israel, must respect international humanitarian law, which prohibits the targeting of humanitarian personnel,” he continued. “The role of aid workers is to alleviate the suffering of people in crisis. Their safety, along with that of the civilians they serve, must be guaranteed.”

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charities face innumerable challenges while they seek to provide services and resources in conflict-stricken areas. For more about how the security team at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation manages operations amid war and crisis, read Security Management’s coverage here.