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Middle East crisis live: Briton and dual US citizen among seven killed in Israeli strike in Gaza, food aid charity says

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Seven killed in Gaza strike, food charity says

World Central Kitchen says seven of its team members were killed in what it called an Israeli military strike in Gaza.

The toll updates an earlier number of five.

The food charity said in a statement on its website that the seven killed were from Australia, Poland, the UK, a dual citizen of the US and Canada, and Palestine.

World Central Kitchen’s chief executive, Erin Gore, said its team was “travelling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle”.

Despite coordinating movements with the IDF [Israel Defence Forces], 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.

Gore also 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. This is unforgivable.

The Israeli Defence Forces said it was conducting a “thorough review” into what occurred.

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Key events

The White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, plans to travel to Saudi Arabia this week for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid a US push for progress toward normalising relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Talks on normalisation had been put on ice in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’s 7 October attack and Israel’s subsequent assault on Gaza, but conversations have resumed in recent months.

Reuters reports a US official said Sullivan planned talks with the crown prince to check in on the issue but did not expect a major breakthrough. Sullivan would consult broadly on a number of matters, a second US official said, adding:

He has not been to Saudi Arabia in some time and there’s lots to discuss.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said almost two weeks ago that the US and Saudi Arabia had made “good progress” in talks on normalising ties between the kingdom and Israel, without providing a timeline for concluding a deal.

As part of a normalisation deal, Saudi Arabia wants to secure a mutual defence pact with Washington and get US support for its civil nuclear program.

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World Central Kitchen halts operations in region

The charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) also says it is immediately “pausing” its operations in the region.

“We will be making decisions about the future of our work soon,” the not-for-profit said in a statement on its website.

Its CEO, Erin Gore, said:

I am heartbroken and appalled that we – World Central Kitchen and the world – lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF.

The love they had for feeding people, the determination they embodied to show that humanity rises above all, and the impact they made in countless lives will forever be remembered and cherished.

A World Central Kitchen barge loaded with food arrives off Gaza’s coast last month. Photograph: Israel Defence Forces/Reuters
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Seven killed in Gaza strike, food charity says

World Central Kitchen says seven of its team members were killed in what it called an Israeli military strike in Gaza.

The toll updates an earlier number of five.

The food charity said in a statement on its website that the seven killed were from Australia, Poland, the UK, a dual citizen of the US and Canada, and Palestine.

World Central Kitchen’s chief executive, Erin Gore, said its team was “travelling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle”.

Despite coordinating movements with the IDF [Israel Defence Forces], 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.

Gore also 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. This is unforgivable.

The Israeli Defence Forces said it was conducting a “thorough review” into what occurred.

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The grieving family of Zomi Frankcom, the Australian aid worker killed by an apparent Israeli military airstrike in Gaza, has said she died “doing the work she loves”.

“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.

The Melbourne-born 43-year-old “was a kind, selfless and outstanding human being [who] travelled the world helping others in their time of need”, her family said.

Frankcom and four other international and Palestinian colleagues were killed in the alleged Israeli airstrike fired on their convoy south of Deir al-Balah late on Monday.

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The White House national security council said the US was “heartbroken and deeply troubled” by the death of the aid workers in Gaza.

Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson went on to say the White House urged Israel to “swiftly investigate what happened”.

We are heartbroken and deeply troubled by the strike that that killed @WCKitchen aid workers in Gaza. Humanitarian aid workers must be protected as they deliver aid that is desperately needed, and we urge Israel to swiftly investigate what happened.

— Adrienne Watson (@NSC_Spox) April 2, 2024

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A Palestinian Red Crescent paramedic has said the aid workers killed on Monday were in a three-car convoy that was crossing out of northern Gaza when an Israeli missile hit.

Mahmoud Thabet, who was on the team that brought the bodies to hospital, told the Associated Press he was told by World Central Kitchen staff the team had been in the north coordinating distribution of the newly arrived aid and were heading back to Rafah in the south.

Three aid ships from Cyprus arrived earlier on 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.

A mourner reacts next to the bodies of World Central Kitchen employees at al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, after the strike. Photograph: Ramadan Abed/Reuters

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.

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.

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Tributes have been paid to Zomi Frankcom, the Australian aid worker killed in Gaza.

Karuna Bajracharya posted on Facebook:

Rest in peace our beautiful sister.

Zomi risked her life many times to help those in dire need, yet our cowardly politicians don’t even dare to risk their own careers by speaking up against Israel and the USA’s six months of genocide!

Frankcom had worked with the World Central Kitchen charity for five years, having been previously based in Bangkok and the US. She had formerly worked at Australia’s Commonwealth Bank for more than eight years.

Tim Costello, a former World Vision chief, paid tribute to aid workers who risked their lives in conflict zones:

It’s a special type of person who actually says: ‘I’m going to serve others in this way, I’m going to risk my own life to actually protect the innocent’.

Costello described the deaths of aid workers as a “bridge that we have crossed”.

We know [foreign aid] is inherently risky … we know that aid workers take risks. They don’t take rifles, they don’t take tanks. All they have is a logo, and a flag, and the confidence that the international system respects humanitarian workers.

That’s why this is utterly, utterly devastating.

The full story from Ben Doherty is here:

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In late March, Zomi Frankcom, the Australian aid worker killed in the strike in Gaza, appeared in a video filmed at Deir al-Balah talking about the meals being prepared for Palestinians by World Central Kitchen.

A week later, Frankcom, along with her international and Palestinian colleagues, would die in that same besieged neighbourhood of central Gaza.

WCK’s Zomi & Chef Oli are in our new Deir al-Balah kitchen where our team is cooking thousands of portions of rice with beef & vegetable stew today. We’re expanding this space so we can increase the amount of meals we produce for families in central Gaza daily. #ChefsForThePeople pic.twitter.com/dSO7GrJSOv

— World Central Kitchen (@WCKitchen) March 25, 2024

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Top American and Israeli officials have held virtual talks as Washington pushes alternatives to Israeli’s anticipated ground assault in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The more than two-and-a-half-hour meeting by video conference on Monday was described by both sides as constructive and productive, as Washington encourages the Israelis to avoid an all-out assault on the city, where an estimated four battalions of Hamas fighters are dispersed among more than 1.3 million civilians, the Associated Press reports.

The potential operation against the militant group in the city has exposed one of the deepest rifts between Israel and its closest ally, funder and arms supplier. The US has already openly said Israel must do more to allow food and other goods through its blockade of Gaza to avert famine.

“They agreed that they share the objective to see Hamas defeated in Rafah,” the US and Israeli teams, known as the strategic consultative group (SCG), said in a joint statement released by the White House.

The US side expressed its concerns with various courses of action in Rafah. The Israeli side agreed to take these concerns into account and to have follow-up discussions between experts overseen by the SCG. Those discussions would include an in-person SCG meeting as early as next week.

The virtual meeting came a week after planned in-person talks were nixed by Netanyahu when the US didn’t veto a United Nations resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

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Recapping other news, thousands of angry Israelis took to the streets on Monday for the third consecutive night to demand Benjamin Netanyahu quit as Israeli prime minister.

And, Agence France-Presse reports, the demonstrators say they are not going away.

Mass protests uniting families of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and an anti-government street movement that failed to unseat Netanyahu last year brought Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to a standstill on Saturday and Sunday.

As thousands again gathered in Tel Aviv and outside Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem on Monday, several protesters told AFP that Netanyahu had to be forced out “to save Israel”.

Israelis set up hundreds of tents in front of the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem in protest against Netanyahu on Monday. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

“This is an existential crisis for Israel,” said Einat Avni Levi, 40, whose family had to flee from the Nirim kibbutz a little over 2km (1.25 miles) from the border barrier with Gaza.

Referring to the around 250 hostages abducted by Hamas during the 7 October attack, she said:

If someone comes and takes me from my bed, and I can’t trust my army and my government to come and rescue me, I cannot live here.

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The Israeli strike on a central Gaza convoy on Monday came as, separately, Israeli forces withdrew from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City after a two-week raid that left most of the major medical complex in ruins, as Lorenzo Tondo in Jerusalem reports.

Hamas claimed the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) killed 400 people in the northern Gaza compound.

The report continues:

According to the IDF, the facility – Gaza City’s main hospital before the war – was used to harbour Hamas fighters. The army described the operation as one of the most successful of the nearly six-month conflict and cited the killing of of 200 militants including senior operatives. The claim they were all militants could not be confirmed.

However, the UN health agency said several hospital patients had died and dozens were put at risk during the raid. Palestinians who fled the facility described days of heavy fighting, mass arrests and forced marches past dead people, while the Hamas-run health ministry described the scale of the destruction inside the complex as “very large”.

Footage showed widespread devastation, with the facility’s main buildings reduced to burned-out husks. The hospital was now “completely out of service”, the ministry said.

Most of Gaza’s hospitals are no longer functioning, the UN has said.

See the full story here:

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