The World Central Kitchen Aid Workers Killed in Gaza

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The World Central Kitchen (WCK)—an American nonprofit group founded by celebrity chef José Andrés to feed people in need during global conflicts and disasters—said it was “devastated” to confirm that seven members of its team were killed by an Israeli airstrike while traveling in two armored cars in a deconflicted zone in Gaza on Tuesday, April 2. 

“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,” WCK stated, adding that it was immediately pausing its operations in Gaza and the region.

Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas War in October, at least 196 aid workers have been killed in Gaza, according to the U.S.-funded Aid Worker Security Database. Most of those killed worked for UNRWA, the U.N.-run aid agency for Palestinian refugees. Aid groups have repeatedly called for a humanitarian ceasefire in response.

WCK stationed aid workers in Gaza when the war first began. Last month, the group shared it had served more than 35 million meals to Gazans in need, and opened more than 60 community kitchens across the besieged territory. Its CEO, Erin Gore, described the latest attack as “unforgivable.” 

“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,” Gore said in a statement.

The bodies of the aid workers were taken to al-Aqsa Hospital in the southern city of Rafah on the Egyptian border. On Wednesday, April 3, WCK revealed the names of all the victims, calling them “heroes.” The workers include Australian WCK employee Zomi Frankcom; Damian Soból from Poland; Palestinian driver and translator Saif Issam Abu Taha; dual U.S-Canadian citizen Jacob Flickinger; and British workers John Chapman, James Henderson, and James Kirby.

On Tuesday, the White House released a statement from President Joe Biden saying he was "outraged and heartbroken” by the aid workers’ deaths. “They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war. They were brave and selfless. Their deaths are a tragedy,” Biden stated.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was "shocked and saddened" by the incident, while Foreign Secretary David Cameron demanded a full investigation. “It is essential that humanitarian workers are protected and able to carry out their work,” Cameron posted on X.

Below, what we know so far about the WCK aid workers killed by Israeli airstrikes:

Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom

Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, was one of WCK’s earliest employees after she first volunteered at a kitchen in Guatemala following the Fuego volcano eruption in June 2018, according to a post on X from Nate Mook, the organization’s former CEO. 

Frankcom was born in Melbourne, Australia, and grew up in Southern Sydney. After graduating with a degree in psychology, she worked at the Commonwealth Bank for more than eight years, according to national media reports. She then worked as a senior manager at WCK for five years, where she coordinated efforts to feed thousands of Australian firefighters and emergency services personnel during the deadly Black Summer bushfires on the southern coast of NSW in January 2020. 

Her work with WCK took her around the world, including to Bangladesh, Morocco, Haiti, Pakistan, Turkey, and the border of Ukraine. “Food is not just calories,” she said in a speech last year to a group of donors. “It’s hope, it’s love, it’s knowing people care.”

On March 14, Frankcom was seen boarding a Royal Jordanian Air Force cargo plane in a post shared by WCK’s Instagram page. In late March, she appeared in another video filmed at Deir al-Balah talking about the meals being prepared for Palestinians. 

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

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters Tuesday that Frankcom’s death was “completely unacceptable,” adding that the Australian government was seeking “full accountability” for the incident. “This is a tragedy that should never have occurred,” he said, adding his government has summoned the Israeli ambassador to Australia.

Since then, Australians and others around the world have posted thousands of tributes to Frankcom on social media. “Zomi risked her life many times to help those in dire need…Rest in peace our beautiful sister,” posted Karuna Bajracharya, whose wife was childhood friends with Frankcom, on Facebook. 

“Zomi was effervescent, her spirit of service embodied the greatest aspects of humanity,” posted Mook. 

Damian Soból

Damian Soból, 35, hailed from the border city of Przemysl in south-eastern Poland. A post by his local sports club describes Soból as a “student, teammate, industrialist, volunteer, and member of the World Central Kitchen team.” 

He volunteered with WCK at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where he helped feed refugees, as well as in response to the earthquakes in Turkey, according to media reports

Following his death, he was originally identified by Wojciech Bakun, the city's mayor, in a Facebook post. “There are no words to describe what people who knew this fantastic guy feel at this moment… May he rest in peace,” Bakun posted. 

His death was later confirmed by Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. “Our brave compatriot, Mr Damian Soból from Przemysl, helped people in need in Gaza where there is a humanitarian crisis. He was killed during an attack which the Israeli army has accepted responsibility for,” Sikorski said in a video message on X. He has also asked the Israeli ambassador for an "urgent explanation."  

Tributes to Soból are flowing on Facebook and Instagram from friends and colleagues, who describe him as heroic. “Damian was one of a kind. A master of all. Damian didn’t have a bad bone in his body. A Clydesdale of a worker. A heart of a Lion. He changed the world for the better by leading by example,” posted Richard Noah Sims, a friend of Soból. 

Nataliya DeMarco, another WCK volunteer who worked with Soból, wrote: “Damian always had a smile on his face and it is truly heartbreaking that wars continue to take the best people from us.” 

Saif Issam Abu Taha

Saif Issam Abu Taha, 26, was a Palestinian translator and driver. He was behind the wheel of the WCK van that was targeted by Israeli airstrikes. 

Abu Taha’s cousin Yousef Sharef told the Washington Post that his death was a shock to his family. “He was a friendly, lovely person, and he used to always do good things and to support people who need help,” he said.

Following his death, mourners gathered in Rafah for Abu Taha’s funeral. A post on X shows devastated family and friends grieving over his loss.

Jacob Flickinger

Jacob Flickinger, 33, was a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada. Little is known about Flickinger, who worked as part of WCK’s relief team. 

John Chapman

John Chapman, 57, lived in Poole in England with his wife and two children. He worked in WCK’s security team as a private contractor for a U.K.-based firm, Solace Global.

He previously served in the Special Boat Service (SBS), a special forces unit of the British Royal Navy, whose maritime operations are highly classified and focused on counter-terrorism. The former SBS hero had worked in previous security stints in the Middle East and had only been in Gaza for a “matter of weeks” before he was killed, according to The Telegraph.

In local outlet The Sun, Chapman's friends described him as a “brilliant bloke,” adding that his death was a “huge loss for his family, his friends and for the veteran community.” 

James Henderson

James Henderson, 33, was born and raised in Falmouth, Cornwall in the U.K., and worked in WCK’s security team as a private contractor for a U.K.-based firm, Solace Global. He attended Penryn Sports College and began his career as a roofer in his local town. He then served as a special forces operator and a member of the Royal Marines for six years.

When he left the military in 2016, Henderson worked as security for a wind farm in the northeast of England, before working in a string of personal security jobs, including one in Iraq. 

He had only been working with WCK briefly before the attack. “Everybody is gutted, he was a lovely lad. He hadn’t been out there long, only a couple of weeks,” Henderson’s close friend told The Telegraph.

Henderson’s LinkedIn page states that he “strongly believes his true vocation lies in security and is looking to continue his career in this area in a civilian position, where he can utilize his skills and experience to the good of company, crew, and others.”

Cherilyn Mackrory, the Member of Parliament in Falmouth, made a statement offering “sincere condolences” to Henderson’s family, who were informed of his death on Tuesday morning. 

James Kirby

James Kirby, 47, came from Bristol in the U.K. and worked in WCK’s security team as a security consultant and private contractor for a U.K.-based firm, Solace Global.

Fondly known to friends as “Kirbs” he was previously a British Army sniper marksman. He then worked in a series of security jobs including guarding Wimbledon tennis stars and providing security at the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix.

Last November, he renovated the home he bought in Somerset in 2019. On his LinkedIn profile, he proudly wrote: “I am ready to focus on myself once again and step into a new chapter, maybe buy a new shirt instead of another roll of insulation.”

“My cousin, James Kirby, killed in Gaza yesterday working to bring aid to innocent people,” his relative Steve Caple posted on Facebook. “I will always be so proud of our family’s HERO. The kindest, funniest and most lovable person. RIP Kirbs.”

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