Charity founder says aid workers killed in air strike were ‘targeted’ by Israel

The founder of World Central Kitchen (WCK) has claimed Israel targeted foreign aid workers who were killed in an air strike.

British victims John Chapman, 57, James “Jim” Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, were among seven who died on Monday.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said the strike was accidental, but WCK founder Jose Andres rejected this assertion, saying the military was aware of the convoy’s movements.

Mr Andres told Reuters: “This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place.

“This was over a 1.5, 1.8 kilometres, with a very defined humanitarian convoy that had signs in the top, in the roof, a very colourful logo that we are obviously very proud of.

“It’s very clear who we are and what we do.”

He added: “They were targeting us in a deconflicting zone, in an area controlled by IDF.

“They knowing that it was our teams moving on that road … with three cars.”

The convoy was hit while leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid taken to Gaza on the maritime route, WCK said.

The attack has drawn international condemnation of what Israel called an “unintended strike”, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak telling Benjamin Netanyahu he was appalled by the killings and demanding a thorough and transparent independent investigation.

Speaking to The Sun newspaper’s Never Mind The Ballots show, Mr Sunak described the aid workers’ deaths as “an awful, awful tragedy”.

On Wednesday, Lord David Cameron described the killings as “dreadful” and said “we should mourn the loss of these brave humanitarian workers”.

Israeli prime minister Mr Netanyahu described the attack as unintended and “tragic” and pledged an independent inquiry.

The family of Mr Chapman, who is believed to have been a former marine and father-of-two from Dorset, said he “will forever be a hero” and died “trying to help people”.

In a statement issued through the Foreign Office, they said: “We are devastated to have lost John, who was killed in Gaza.

“He died trying to help people and was subject to an inhumane act. He was an incredible father, husband, son and brother.

“We request we be given space and time to grieve appropriately.

“He was loved by many and will forever be a hero. He will be missed dearly.”

Israel-Hamas conflict
Humanitarian aid being air dropped over Gaza from an RAF A400M Atlas aircraft (CPL Tim Laurence RAF/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA)

The family of Mr Kirby, a military veteran who is believed to be a former member of Britain’s special forces, said he was a “genuine gentleman” who was “always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone”.

They told the BBC: “Alongside the other six individuals who tragically lost their lives, he will be remembered as a hero.

“James understood the dangers of venturing into Gaza, drawing from his experiences in the British armed forces, where he bravely served tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

“Despite the risks, his compassionate nature drove him to offer assistance to those in dire need.

“James lost his life trying to save others, he will never know what a void he has left, our family will never be the same.”

The British trio died alongside American-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33, Australian national Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, who was the leader of the relief team, Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, and Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25.