World Central Kitchen will resume operations in Gaza after killing of 7 aid workers

World Central Kitchen announced that it will resume operations in Gaza on Monday, almost one month after seven of its aid workers were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the enclave.

The U.S.-based nonprofit group, founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, suspended operations in Gaza for four weeks after the workers were killed on April 1, according to a statement. The organization identified the aid workers as Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, a 25-year-old Palestinian; Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, a 43-year-old Australian; Damian Soból, a 35-year-old from Poland; Jacob Flickinger, a 33-year-old dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada; Security team members John Chapman, 57, James (Jim) Henderson, 33, and James Kirby, 47, all from the United Kingdom, were also killed in the attack.

Following the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country’s forces had “unintentionally hit innocent people” in the Gaza Strip. The IDF took full responsibility for killing the aid workers, saying it was the result of soldiers mistaking them for Hamas gunmen.

A car used by the World Central Kitchen that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on April 2, 2024.
A car used by World Central Kitchen that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day is pictured in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on April 2.AFP – Getty Images file

Before halting operations, the organization had distributed more than 43 million meals in Gaza “and accounted for 62% of all international NGO aid,” WCK said in a statement.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire,” said Erin Gore, the nonprofit’s chief executive officer. “We are restarting our operation with the same energy, dignity, and focus on feeding as many people as possible.”

WCK has 276 trucks carrying almost 8 million meals that are ready to cross into Gaza via Rafah, and will send trucks into the enclave via Jordan too, it said in a statement. The organization is also continuing to explore delivering food with the help of Open Arms, a Spanish humanitarian organization, and the United Arab Emirates.

WCK is also opening a third “high production kitchen,” named Damian’s Kitchen after Damian Soból, a kitchen builder who was killed in the April 1 attack.

“Damian’s Kitchen is in Mawasi and adds to WCK’s 68 other community kitchens in Gaza, including two other high production kitchens in Rafah and Deir al Balah,” the organization said.

Western employees of international aid organization killed in Israeli attack on Gaza
A hole is blasted through the roof of a World Central Kitchen vehicle, pictured on April 2, the day after an Israeli strike in Deir al-Balah, Gaza.Ali Jadallah / Anadolu via Getty Images file

The organization is continuing to call for “an impartial and international investigation” into the Israeli attack that killed the aid workers, who were hit as their vehicle was leaving a warehouse in the Deir al-Balah area of central Gaza.

The charity said its team had coordinated its movements with the Israeli military and that it was traveling in a “deconflicted zone” in two armored cars branded with the World Central Kitchen logo and a soft-skin vehicle.

“While the IDF has taken responsibility for the attack and publicly stated they changed their rules of operations, WCK is seeking answers and advocating for change to better protect all NGO workers bravely serving in Gaza,” the organization said.

Gore, the charity’s chief executive officer, says WCK was “forced to make a decision: Stop feeding altogether during one of the worst hunger crises ever” or “keep feeding knowing that aid, aid workers and civilians are being intimidated and killed.”

“These are the hardest conversations, and we have considered all perspectives when deliberating,” Gore said. “Ultimately, we decided we must keep feeding, continuing our mission of showing up to provide food to people during the toughest of times.”