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'Appalled' Sunak tells Netanyahu he wants independent investigation into Gaza air strike

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has told his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza.

Downing Street confirmed the Prime Minister spoke to Netanyahu on Tuesday evening following an IDF air strike in Gaza which killed international aid workers, including three British nationals.

The British aid workers have been named by the BBC as John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby.

They were staff with the World Central Kitchen charity they all died, along with their Palestinian driver, after their vehicles came under attack from IDF weaponry.

World Central Kitchen (WCK) said its staff from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, a dual citizen of the US and Canada, and Palestine were killed “in an IDF strike”.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the Prime Minister was appalled to hear the aid workers were killed in an air strike on Monday and demanded a “thorough and transparent independent investigation into what happened”.

They said: “The Prime Minister said far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza and the situation is increasingly intolerable.

"The UK expects to see immediate action by Israel to end restrictions on humanitarian aid, deconflict with the UN and aid agencies, protect civilians and repair vital infrastructure like hospitals and water networks.

"The Prime Minister reiterated that Israel's rightful aim of defeating Hamas would not be achieved by allowing a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza."

Earlier on Tuesday afternoon Mr Sunak wrote on X: “Israel must explain how this tragic incident happened and take immediate steps to protect aid workers and facilitate vital humanitarian operations in Gaza.”

The destroyed roof of a vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike (REUTERS)
The destroyed roof of a vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike (REUTERS)

Netanyahu earlier admitted Israel had carried out the “unintentional” strike on the aid workers.

Speaking in Hebrew in a video message, he said: "Unfortunately, in the last 24 hours there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip.

"It happens in war, we check it to the end, we are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again."

WCK said the group was helping to distribute a new shipload of food to northern Gaza when their convoy was hit.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said there were “questions that need to be answered” over the deaths, describing himself as “shocked and saddened” by the news.

He said: “We are asking Israel to investigate what happened urgently, because clearly there are questions that need to be answered.

“My thoughts are with [the victims’] friends and family,” adding that aid workers are “are doing fantastic work bringing alleviation to the suffering that many are experiencing in Gaza.”

Foreign Secretary David Cameron also called on Israel to "immediately investigate", adding that the Government wanted "a full, transparent explanation of what happened".

He said: "The news of the air strike that killed World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers in Gaza is deeply distressing. British Nationals are reported to have been killed, we are urgently working to verify this information and will provide full support to their families.

A man displays blood-stained British, Polish, and Australian passports after an Israeli airstrike (AP)
A man displays blood-stained British, Polish, and Australian passports after an Israeli airstrike (AP)

"These were people who were working to deliver life-saving aid to those who desperately need it.

"It is essential that humanitarian workers are protected and able to carry out their work.

"We have called on Israel to immediately investigate and provide a full, transparent explanation of what happened."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for international law to be upheld.

He said: “We condemn this strike. There must be a full investigation and those responsible must be held to account.

“Humanitarian workers put their lives in danger to serve others. Their deaths are outrageous and unacceptable – and it is not the first time aid workers have come under fire in Israel’s campaign. International law must be upheld and humanitarian workers must be protected so that they can deliver the aid that is so desperately needed.

“This war must stop now. Far too many innocent people have died in this conflict and more than a million are facing starvation. Labour repeats our call for an immediate ceasefire, the immediate release of all hostages and full humanitarian access into Gaza.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) earlier said it was "aware" of the report.

Damian Sobol, was reportedly killed by Israeli airstrike in Gaza (via REUTERS)
Damian Sobol, was reportedly killed by Israeli airstrike in Gaza (via REUTERS)
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that aid worker Lalzawmi
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that aid worker Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom was among those killed (Antoinette Lattouf/X)

The UK government has summoned the Israeli ambassador in London to the Foreign Office following the deaths of aid workers in Gaza.

The ambassador attended the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Offices where Andrew Mitchell, the minister for development and Africa, "set out the Government's unequivocal condemnation of the appalling killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, including three British Nationals".

He said: "Today, I summoned the Ambassador of the Israeli Embassy in London to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

He added that he had "requested a quick and transparent investigation, shared with the international community, and full accountability".

Matthew Hollingworth, World Food Programme country director for Palestine, said he knew four of the aid workers killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza.

"These are our friends, these are people we worked very closely with over the past weeks," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said it "expressed the deepest condolences" to the families of those killed.

IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a statement: "Last night, an incident took place in Gaza that resulted in the tragic death of World Central Kitchen employees as they fulfilled their vital mission of bringing food to people in need.

"As a professional military committed to international law, we are committed to examining our operations thoroughly and transparently.”

He added: “We have been reviewing the incident at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of what happened and how it happened. We will be opening a probe to examine this serious incident further. This will help us reduce the risk of such an event from occurring again.”

Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has announced he will establish a "professional investigation team" after an airstrike killed seven aid workers in Gaza, an incident that Israel earlier described as "unintentional".

The scene following the strike in Gaza (via REUTERS)
The scene following the strike in Gaza (via REUTERS)

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that aid worker Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom was among those killed and has offered his condolences to family and friends.

The mayor of the southeastern Polish city of Przemysl, Wojciech Bakun, named a Polish victim on Facebook as Damian Soból and said he was from the city.

Meanwhile Canada's Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said she is "horrified" to hear of the Israeli airstrikes that claimed the lives of World Central Kitchen employees, as she confirmed a Canadian citizen was among the dead.

She posted on X: "Strikes on humanitarian personnel is absolutely unacceptable. International humanitarian law must be respected.”

In a statement the WCK said: “World Central Kitchen is devastated to confirm seven members of our team have been killed in an IDF strike in Gaza.

“The WCK team was travelling in a deconflicted zone in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle.

“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.

“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. This is unforgivable,” said World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore.

Footage showed the bodies of the five dead at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah. Several of them wore protective gear with the charity’s logo. Staff showed the passports of three of the dead.

United Nations staff members inspect the carcass of a car used by aid group World Central Kitchen (AFP via Getty Images)
United Nations staff members inspect the carcass of a car used by aid group World Central Kitchen (AFP via Getty Images)

Mahmoud Thabet, a Palestinian Red Crescent paramedic who was on the team that brought the bodies to the hospital, told The Associated Press the workers were in a three-car convoy that was crossing out of northern Gaza when an Israeli missile hit.

Mr Thabet said he was told by WCK staff the team had been in the north coordinating distribution of the newly arrived aid and were heading back to Rafah in the south. The source of fire could not be independently confirmed.

Three aid ships from Cyprus arrived earlier Monday carrying some 400 tons of food and supplies organised by the charity and the United Arab Emirates - the group’s second shipment after a pilot run last month. The Israeli military was involved in coordinating both deliveries.

The US has touted the sea route as a new way to deliver desperately needed aid to northern Gaza, where the UN has said much of the population is on the brink of starvation, largely cut off from the rest of the territory by Israeli forces.

Relatives and friends mourn the death of Saif Abu Taha, a staff member of World Central Kitchen (AFP via Getty Images)
Relatives and friends mourn the death of Saif Abu Taha, a staff member of World Central Kitchen (AFP via Getty Images)

Israel has barred UNRWA, the main UN agency in Gaza, from making deliveries to the north, and other aid groups say sending truck convoys north has been too dangerous because of the military’s failure to ensure safe passage.

The UNRWA said in its latest report that 173 of its “colleagues” have been killed in Gaza in the violence. The figure does not include workers for other aid organisations.

World Central Kitchen board member Robert Egger and the media reported that the Australian killed in Monday night’s strike was 44-year-old Zomi Frankcom from Melbourne.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was urgently seeking to confirm reports of an Australian death. The department said in a statement: “We have been clear on the need for civilian lives to be protected in this conflict.”

The strike came hours after Israeli troops ended a two-week raid on Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, leaving the facility largely gutted and a swath of destruction in the surrounding neighbourhoods. Footage showed Shifa’s main buildings had been reduced to burned-out husks.

Israel said it launched the raid on Shifa because senior Hamas operatives had regrouped there and were planning attacks. The military said its troops killed 200 militants in the operation, though the claim that they were all militants could not be confirmed, and Palestinians coming to the site after the troops withdrew found bodies of civilians.