Seven aid workers killed in Israeli strike in Gaza

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An apparent Israeli airstrike killed six international aid workers with the World Central Kitchen charity and their Palestinian driver, the aid group said Tuesday, as they were delivering food from its latest shipment to Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been pushed to the brink of famine by Israel's offensive against Hamas.

Footage showed the bodies of the dead at a hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah. Several of them wore protective gear with the charity's logo. Those killed include three from Britain, one from Australia, one from Poland, and a U.S. and Canadian dual citizen, according to hospital records.

The source of fire late Monday could not be independently confirmed. The Israeli military said it was conducting a review "to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident."

The food charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés said it was immediately suspending operations in the region. The strike marked a potentially major setback to efforts to deliver aid by sea as Israel heavily restricts access to northern Gaza, where experts say famine is imminent.

"The WCK team was traveling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle," the charity said in a statement.

"Despite coordinating movements with the (Israeli army), 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."

Erin Gore, the CEO of the charity, said "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. This is unforgivable."

Three aid ships from the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus arrived earlier Monday carrying some 400 tons of food and supplies organized 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 U.S. has touted the sea route as a new way to deliver desperately needed aid to northern Gaza, where the U.N. has said much of the population is on the brink of starvation, largely cut off from the rest of the territory by Israeli forces. Israel has barred UNRWA, the main U.N. 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 workers have been killed in Gaza. The figure does not include workers for other aid organizations.

The bodies of the aid workers have been taken to a hospital in the southern city of Rafah on the Egyptian border, according to an Associated Press reporter at the hospital. The foreigners' bodies will be evacuated out of Gaza and the Palestinian driver's body will be handed to his family in Rafah for burial.

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 war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and abducting around 250 hostages. Israel responded with one of the deadliest and most destructive offensives in recent history.

At least 32,845 Palestinians have been killed, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count. Israel blames the civilian toll on Palestinian militants because they fight in dense residential areas.

Aid groups have repeatedly called for a humanitarian cease-fire, saying it's the only way to reach people in need. The United States, Qatar and Egypt have spent months trying to broker a cease-fire but the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas remain bogged down.

Hamas is believed to be holding some 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others after freeing most of the rest during a cease-fire in November in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.