Rishi Sunak ‘appalled’ by killing of three British aid workers in IDF strike

Undated handout photos issued by World Central Kitchen of (left to right) Britons John Chapman, James "Jim" Henderson and James Kirby, three of the World Central Kitchen seven aid workers who were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza.
From left, John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby were the three Britons killed in the IDF strike.
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Rishi Sunak told Benjamin Netanyahu he was “appalled” by the killing of three British citizens in an Israeli strike as he described the situation in Gaza as “intolerable”.

In a call with the Israeli prime minister on Tuesday night, Mr Sunak demanded answers and called for a “thorough and transparent independent investigation” after aid workers were killed.

James Henderson, 33, and John Chapman, 57, who are both said to have served in the Royal Marines, were named alongside James Kirby, a former Army rifleman and sniper marksman, as the three Britons who had died in the bombing of a convoy.

Mr Netanyahu admitted the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] were behind the strike on the World Central Kitchen vehicles, which killed seven aid workers in total.

The charity had alerted the IDF to the route it was using and was travelling in cars marked with its logo on the roof.

Mr Netanyahu said the strike was “unintended” and described it as a tragic event of the kind that “happens” in wartime.

Mr Sunak said he was “shocked and saddened”, adding: “We’re asking Israel to investigate what happened urgently, because clearly there are questions that need to be answered.”

The Prime Minister went further in his call with his Israeli counterpart, not only saying he was “appalled” by the attack but also issuing wider demands on Israel’s actions in Gaza.

A Downing Street spokesperson said of the call: “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, de-conflict with the UN and aid agencies, protect civilians and repair vital infrastructure like hospitals and water networks.”

Israel’s military chief said the strike as the result of a “misidentification” in complex conditions.

Announcing the results of a preliminary investigation early Wednesday, Lt Gen Herzi Halevi expressed remorse over the killings and called the event a “grave mistake”. “It shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Joe Biden sharply criticised Israel on Tuesday night, saying it “has not done enough” to protect civilians.

For weeks, the Foreign Office has been considering whether Israel is failing to demonstrate a commitment to international law, and whether therefore the UK should stop selling the country arms.

Calls are now emerging for intelligence-sharing to be scaled back if UK legal advice concludes that Israel is now falling short of that requirement.

Alicia Kearns, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, told The Telegraph: “A determination that Israel is not demonstrating a commitment to international humanitarian law would have implications for our intelligence-sharing, alongside arms sales.”

Lord Cameron described the killing of three British citizens as “completely unacceptable” in a phone call with Israel Katz, his Israeli counterpart. The Foreign Secretary said Israel must make “major changes to ensure the safety of aid workers on the ground”.

The Foreign Office took the unusual step of summoning Tzipi Hotovely, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, for a 30-minute meeting with Andrew Mitchell, the development minister. Lord Cameron has cut short his Easter break to handle the crisis.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, condemned the deaths as “outrageous”, “unacceptable” and “horrifying”, adding: “This war must stop now. Far too many innocent people have died in this conflict.”

A friend of Mr Henderson’s said the family had been informed of his death on Tuesday morning, adding: “Everybody is gutted. He was a lovely lad. He hadn’t been out there long, only a couple of weeks.”

A former colleague of Mr Kirby confirmed to The Telegraph that he had died in an Israeli airstrike that struck an aid convoy.

Mr Kirby served as a sniper marksman in the Army between 1994 and 1998 and a rifleman between 2009 and 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Most recently he worked as a security consultant for “risk management and security specialists” Solace Global.

Mr Kirby also worked as a players escort at Wimbledon and provided security at the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix, as well as working for high-net worth individuals and business leaders.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said the US was “outraged” at the killing of the aid workers, which he described as “emblematic of a larger problem”.

The strike was “evidence of why distributing aid in Gaza is so challenging,” he said, adding that Israel should clarify what happened in days, not weeks.

The workers who died included Australian, Canadian and Polish citizens as well as a US-Canadian dual national, who was identified by American media as Jacob Flickinger, 33.

On Tuesday night, Isaac Herzog, the Israeli president, telephoned the chef who runs the World Central Kitchen charity to apologise personally, expressing his “deep sorrow and sincere apologies over the tragic loss of life”.

The strike on the convoy was carried out by drone, The Telegraph understands, via an operator with the 933 brigade based in the southern city of Khan Younis. It would have been signed off by three people – an intelligence officer, a unit commander and a legal adviser.

An Israeli military source called the strikes an “intelligence failure”, saying suspicions of the convoy were based on intelligence and heightened by it travelling at night.

Israeli security officials told the Haaretz newspaper the convoy was trailed by IDF drones and fired upon three times.

One of the convoy's vehicles following the fatal IDF strike in Deir Al-Balah
One of the convoy's vehicles following the fatal IDF strike in Deir Al-Balah - Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images

The IDF believed an armed Hamas operative had joined a World Central Kitchen convoy transporting 100 tonnes of food aid to its warehouse in the central city of Deir Al-Balah. The food had been delivered by sea from Cyprus.

Subsequent intelligence revealed that, when the convoy left the warehouse, the Hamas operative stayed behind, the sources told Haaretz.

An Israeli drone reportedly fired a missile at one of the cars in the convoy, after which the aid workers moved to another vehicle and informed their superiors that they had been attacked.

A second missile then hit the car they had moved to, according to Haaretz. When the third car in the convoy approached and tried to move the wounded, a third missile struck, killing everyone, the newspaper reported.

Bellingcat, an open-source intelligence website, reported that the destroyed cars were found around 1.6km apart, corroborating the report of three separate strikes.

The cars appeared to have been hit with inert or low-yield missiles similar to the Hellfire R9X used by the US military, Bellingcat reported. The Hellfire contains no explosives and kills targets through kinetic force.

In Haaretz, a defence source expressed his frustration with troops in the field who “launch attacks without any preparation, in cases that have nothing to do with protecting our forces”.

Photographs from the attack site showed a hole in the roof of one of the convoy’s cars through the middle of the WCK logo. The car was otherwise largely undamaged, suggesting explosives were not used in the strike.


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The IDF said on Tuesday it had launched a high-level investigation into the incident while Mr Netanyahu described it as a “tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip”.

“This happens in war, and we will investigate it to the end. We are in contact with the governments involved, and we will do everything to ensure that this does not happen again,” he said.

The IDF’s spokesman expressed “sincere sorrow” to the families of the victims, promising “an in-depth examination ... to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident”.

“We have been reviewing the incident at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of what happened and how it happened,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, lauding World Central Kitchen’s “vital mission of bringing food to people in need”.

“We will be opening a probe to examine this serious incident further. We will get to the bottom of this and we will share our findings transparently.”

World Central Kitchen described the attack as “unforgivable”. Erin Gore, the charity’s chief executive, said: “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.”

The organisation said it was suspending its operations in the region in the aftermath of the attack. Cyprus said ships bringing 240 tonnes of aid to Gaza would return to port now the NGO was no longer working in the field.

The deadly attack was particularly shocking to the aid world since Israel held a broadly positive relationship with WCK, unlike other groups working in Gaza such as UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees.

In his statement, Rear Admiral Hagari praised WCK for delivering aid to Israel in the aftermath of the Oct 7 massacre.

Tania Hary, the director of prominent Israeli human rights organisation Gisha, said on Tuesday: “WCK are thought to have the closest cooperation with the IDF and seemed to enjoy preferential treatment for being from its perspective ‘neutral’ (i.e. no advocacy work). In the end, the truth remains that no one is safe in Gaza.”

Juliette Touma, a UNRWA spokeswoman, called the Israeli attack on the aid workers “absolutely devastating”.

“It shouldn’t happen, but what’s been happening way too often in this conflict is that all the red lines have been crossed. Too many aid workers have been killed. Too many medical workers, too many journalists, too many children,” Ms Touma told The Telegraph.

At UNRWA alone, 176 workers have been killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza since the start of the war, including most recently in a “precisely targeted” Israeli bomb on an aid warehouse in Rafah, southern Gaza. Israel claimed to have killed Muhammad Abu Hasna, a Hamas commander, in the attack.

NGOs on the ground are expressing concern that de-conflicting with the IDF is “not functioning properly”, Tess Ingram, a spokesman for Unicef, told The Telegraph by phone from Gaza.

“Those of us working here understand that this is a very dangerous place..[but] we lost seven colleagues last night because that system didn’t work properly,” she said.

Australian authorities on Tuesday confirmed the death of Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, a 44-year-old woman from Melbourne.

On Tuesday, Nate Mook, a former colleague, spoke of her as embodying “the greatest aspects of humanity” in a post on X, formerly Twitter:

Ms Frankcom was seen in a video last week filmed inside a field kitchen in Deir Al-Balah, where chefs were making rice with beef and vegetables.

Another victim has been identified as Damian Sobol, a Polish national from a city on the Ukrainian border, who took up charity work following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

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