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American Father Killed in Israeli Strike Was About to Leave Gaza

Courtesy of John Flickinger
Courtesy of John Flickinger

The American-Canadian aid worker who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza this week was just days away from crossing the border into Egypt to “reassess” the safety risks in the enclave, his father told The Daily Beast.

Jacob Flickinger, 33, was one of seven aid workers for the World Central Kitchen (WCK) non-profit who were killed in Gaza on Monday. The group was delivering aid in Deir al-Balah when a drone-fired missile struck their vehicle, according to the NGO group, in an incident that the Israeli government has described as a “grave mistake.”

Others killed in the strike include Australian citizen Laizawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, Polish national Damian Soból, and Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutah, their Palestinian driver. Two British workers, James “Jim” Henderson and James Kirby, were also killed in the incident.

In his first media comments, John Flickinger—Jacob’s father—revealed that the aid worker was due to go to Cairo by the end of the week to “reassess what their needs were and how they’re going to proceed.”

“The situation was changing daily on the ground with Israel threatening to attack Rafah,” John told The Daily Beast, referring to the precarious situation on the ground. “That was the last text from him, that he’s going to reassess at the end of the week in Cairo.”

Jacob Flickinger and his son.

Jacob Flickinger and his son.

Courtesy of John Flickinger

Jacob—who had previously served in Afghanistan with the Canadian military, according to his father—was based in Costa Rica with his partner Sandy and their 1-year-old baby before leaving for Gaza. Describing the aid worker as “a loving husband and new father,” John said that his son had been working various gigs as a personal trainer, coach, and wilderness guide to “feed his family” before his death.

Becoming a father had “changed Jacob in many ways,” John said. “He became very, very focused on raising his son… and they moved to Costa Rica to start a new, kind of a new life there and kind of build a life in a nice tropical country,” he said, adding that Jacob was “the best friend anyone could ever have.”

Jacob Flickinger and his son.

Jacob Flickinger and his son.

Courtesy of John Flickinger

“But he loved to work with the World Central Kitchen. He believed in their mission. And when the opportunity came to Gaza, he was hesitant, but the need was so great,” John said, adding that he had warned him the situation in Gaza would be different from his time in Afghanistan.

Jacob’s family and friends have set up a GoFundMe to support his wife and son “to help his family reestablish themselves after his tragic death.”

“As the sole financial provider, Jacob’s family will use these funds to sustain themselves temporarily, setting up a trust for his baby boy, and helping with any flights and funeral arrangements,” the fundraiser description says.

A photo of Jacob Flickinger and coworkers.

Jacob Flickinger and coworkers deliver aid to an orphanage in Mexico after a hurricane.

Courtesy of John Flickinger

The World Central Kitchen, which was founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres in 2010 as a humanitarian aid organization focused on delivering food in crisis zones, said in a press release Tuesday that the WCK workers were traveling in branded vehicles in what was supposed to be a de-conflicted zone when their convoy was struck.

“Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route,” the press release said, with CEO Erin Gore calling the incident “unforgivable.”

Celebrity Chef Jose Andrés Blasts Israel Over Slain Gaza Colleagues

“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. The love they had for feeding people, the determination they embodied to show that humanity rises above all, and the impact they made in countless lives will forever be remembered and cherished,” Gore said in the press release.

Israel has so far maintained that the aid workers killed in the attack were not targeted intentionally. “I want to be very clear, the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers. It was a mistake that followed a misidentification at night, during a war, in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” Israel’s military chief Herzi Halevi said this week.

In a social media post addressing the tragedy on Monday, WCK founder José Andrés lambasted Israel for using “food as a weapon” in Gaza, referencing the stringent aid restrictions that have pushed the enclave to the brink of famine.

“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,” he said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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