Fuming Rishi Sunak warns crisis in Gaza is becoming ‘intolerable’ after aid workers killed | Politics | News

April 2, 2024

A former Royal Marine and an ex-special forces hero were among three Britons killed in an Israeli drone strike in Gaza.

James Henderson, 33 was part of a team of World Central Kitchen aid workers travelling in a convoy of cars in Deir Balah, central Gaza, on Monday night.

Another two British nationals – one believed to be a special forces veteran and another a former British Army soldier – an Australian citizen described as a “shining star” – Lalzawmi ‘Zomi’ Frankcom – a Polish man – Damian Sobol – who also helped Ukrainian refugees in Poland – Palestinian driver Saif Abu Taha and American Jacob Flickinger, were all killed.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has warned Israel the humanitarian crisis is becoming “increasingly intolerable”.

And he told Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu “far too many” aid workers have been killed.

Following a call on Tuesday night, a Downing Street spokesperson said: ““The Prime Minister spoke to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this evening.

“He said he was appalled by the killing of aid workers, including three British nationals, in an airstrike in Gaza yesterday and demanded a thorough and transparent independent investigation into what happened.

“The Prime Minister said far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza and the situation is increasingly intolerable. The UK expects to see immediate action by Israel to end restrictions on humanitarian aid, deconflict with the UN and aid agencies, protect civilians and repair vital infrastructure like hospitals and water networks.

“The Prime Minister reiterated that Israel’s rightful aim of defeating Hamas would not be achieved by allowing a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.”

But Mr Netanyahu – as fury over the strikes mounted last night – said the convoy was hit “unintentionally”.

A close friend of Mr Henderson said last night: “Everybody is gutted. He was a lovely lad. He hadn’t been out there long – only a couple of weeks.

“The group he was working for broke the news to the family this morning.”

Mr Henderson was a member of the Royal Marines for six years.

After leaving the military in 2016, he worked a series of close personal security jobs before volunteering to work with WCK.

Another of the three Brits killed had previously worked for the Special Boat Service (SBS), a special forces unit of the British Royal Navy.

And sources told the Daily Express the third Brit killed in the devastating strikes had previously served in the British Army.

Harrowing pictures show how a missile smashed through the World Central Kitchen logo emblazoned on the roof of one of the vehicles.

The charity said two of the cars were armoured while the third had a “soft skin”. The route, World Central Kitchen said, had been coordinated with the Israel Defence Forces.

The first car is understood to have been struck in a drone strike on Gaza’s coastal road, the Al Rashid, after leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza by ship.

The second vehicle was then hit 800 metres to the south and the third vehicle was hit roughly one-mile south-west from the first vehicle.

This is believed to have been the unarmoured vehicle as it sustained the most damage, the rear of the vehicle completely destroyed, the metal twisted, and windows blown out by the force of the missile strike.

Some of those travelling in the first car tried to get into a second car, which was then also hit. A third car approached the stricken second vehicle and wounded were being ferried into it before that car too was hit by a missile.

All three cars were struck in a “deconflicted zone” and the WCK confirmed it was pausing all operations in war-torn Gaza.

Some of the bloodied bodies were lifted into body bags whilst still wearing their body armour emblazoned with the logo of the World Central Kitchen.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said the operation to recover the seven bodies took “several hours”.

A spokesperson said in a statement: “In a challenging operation spanning several hours, teams from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society successfully recovered the bodies of the seven World Central Kitchen employees this morning.

“They were targeted by Israeli occupation forces yesterday evening while travelling in vehicles owned by the kitchen in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip.

“Two of the bodies were initially missing, but were later located and retrieved by the PRCS teams.

“Subsequently, all seven bodies were transported to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah and then to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in preparation for their evacuation through the Rafah border crossing.”

WCK chief executive Erin Gore said: “This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable.

“I am heartbroken and appalled that we, World Central Kitchen and the world, lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF.”

Lord Cameron declared the deaths were “deeply disturbing” and demanded “urgent changes” to protect aid workers in Gaza.

Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell added: “Today, I summoned the Ambassador of the Israeli Embassy in London to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

“I set out the government’s unequivocal condemnation of the appalling killing of 7 World Central Kitchen aid workers, including 3 British nationals. I requested a quick and transparent investigation, shared with the international community, and full accountability.

“I reiterated the need for Israel to put in place an effective deconfliction mechanism immediately and urgently to scale up humanitarian access. We need to see an immediate humanitarian pause, to get aid in and the hostages out, then progress towards a sustainable ceasefire.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also joined calls for a thorough probe into the horrific incident, saying he is “shocked and saddened” by the death of a British aid worker in Gaza, and that there are “clearly there are questions that need to be answered”.

He said: “We’re urgently working to confirm all the details, my thoughts right now are with their friends and family. They’re doing fantastic work bringing alleviation to the suffering that many are experiencing in Gaza.

“They should be praised and commended for what they’re doing. They need to be allowed to do that work unhindered and it’s incumbent on Israel to make sure they can do that.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted “innocent people” had been killed in the “unintentional” airstrike.

He said: “It happens in war, we check it to the end, we are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again.”

Mr Sobol, 35, started volunteering with WCK in the border town of Przemysl at the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine where he was helping feed refugees.

He joined WCK’s response to the earthquakes in Turkey. More recently he started working for WCK in Gaza.

Nate Mook, the former chief executive of WCK who first hired Ms Frankcom, described her as a “shining star” and “gift to the world” who had dedicated her life to helping people. “The news of her death, the killing of seven members of the World Central Kitchen is devastating for their families, friends and the world,” he told The Independent.

“It is unfathomable that they are not with us any more. They were all truly dedicated to their work, trying to do what they could in the most desperate and dangerous of situations.”

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