20 April, 2024
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‘Selfless’ aid worker among 7 killed in Gaza air strike

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An Australian aid worker killed in an Israeli air strike while delivering food in Gaza has been remembered as a “selfless and outstanding human being”.

Hours after Zomi Frankcom was identified as one of seven foreign aid workers killed in the strike, her family released a statement saying they were “reeling from the shock” of her death.

“We are deeply mourning the news that our brave and beloved Zomi has been killed doing the work she loves delivering food to the people of Gaza,” they said in the statement.

“She was a kind, selfless and outstanding human being that has travelled the world helping others in their time of need.

“She will leave behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love for all those in her orbit.”

Ms Frankcom’s death prompted demands from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for accountability as to how the air strike occurred.

The prime minister has asked to speak with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu over the death.

“There have been calls put in by the foreign minister to her counterpart and I have put in a request to Prime Minister Netanyahu as well, to speak with him directly,” he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Albanese said the government was “urgently” investigating the incident.

“We want full accountability for this,” he told reporters in Queensland.

“This is a tragedy that should never have occurred.”

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers would be investigated by an “independent, professional, and expert body”.

Admr Hagari also said he had spoken with the group’s founder Jose Anders and expressed deepest condolences.

“We also express sincere sorrow to our allied nations who have been doing and continue to do so much to assist those in need,” he said in the statement.

The Israel Defence Forces earlier said it was conducting a thorough review to understand the circumstances of the incident.

“The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with WCK in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,” it said in a statement.

 Bloodied passports of three of the aid workers killed in Gaza. Image by AP PHOTO 

World Central Kitchen issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying it was pausing operations in Gaza as a result of the deaths.

“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,” World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore said.

“This is unforgivable.”

The group revealed the last movements of its team before the air strike, saying the workers were “travelling in a deconflicted zone in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle”.

“Despite co-ordinating 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 group’s release said.

“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,” Ms Gore said.

It was originally believed that four aid workers had died but World Central Kitchen upgraded that to seven on Tuesday afternoon.

The other aid workers who died were from Britain, Poland and Palestine while another was a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, according to their employer.

The Australian Council for International Development said it expressed its deepest condolences to the family of Ms Frankcom.

“It is truly tragic that an Australian aid worker, working to provide food to starving civilians, has been killed in this fashion,” chief executive Marc Purcell said.

with Reuters

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