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Ex-Special Forces hero killed in Gaza air strike revealed as married dad of 2 described by comrades as ‘brilliant bloke’

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A SPECIAL Forces hero was among three Brits killed in an air strike while delivering aid in Gaza yesterday.

Dad-of-two John Chapman, formerly of the Special Boat Service, was in a three-car convoy “unintentionally” hit by Israeli drone missiles.

Dad-of-two John Chapman, former SBS hero, was among three Brits killed in an air strike while delivering aid in Gaza

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Dad-of-two John Chapman, former SBS hero, was among three Brits killed in an air strike while delivering aid in GazaCredit: Getty
World Central Kitchen signs are clearly visible on the motor 'unintentionally' hit by Israeli drone missiles

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World Central Kitchen signs are clearly visible on the motor ‘unintentionally’ hit by Israeli drone missilesCredit: Getty
The aid vehicle that was struck in the attack in Deir al-Balah

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The aid vehicle that was struck in the attack in Deir al-BalahCredit: Getty

An Army veteran and an ex-Marine, also working with World Central Kitchen, were among seven killed in total.

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday admitted carrying out the air strike that killed seven aid workers including three ex-forces Brits.

Amid global outrage, he said: “Unfortunately, in the last 24 hours there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in Gaza.

“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.”

PM Rishi Sunak last night told Netanyahu he was appalled by the strike and said Israel’s aim of defeating Hamas would not be achieved by allowing a humanitarian disaster.

He added: “We are asking Israel to investigate what happened urgently.

“Clearly there are questions that need to be answered.”

The three Brits worked for security firm Solace Global and were delivering food for US-based aid agency World Central Kitchen.

Two were named as former Special Boat Service hero John Chapman, 57, and 33-year-old ex-Royal Marine James Henderson. The third was named by the BBC as Army veteran James Kirby. 

The other victims were Polish, Australian, a Palestinian driver and a dual US-Canadian citizen.

‘Unintentional’ IDF air strike that killed 3 Brits was ‘a terrible accident’ says ex soldier

They were in a deconflicted zone and had informed Israel Defense Forces of their movements so should have been safe.

But shortly after setting off from an aid warehouse in the Gaza city of Deir al-Balah they were hit on the coastal Al Rashid road.

Israeli media said an IDF unit believed they had seen an armed figure entering the warehouse.

Suspecting Hamas terrorists were using the convoy as cover, they fired on the WCK cars — two armoured and one soft-skin vehicle.

‘Huge loss’

A missile from a Hermes 450 drone slammed into one vehicle but the occupants managed to leap out and race to the other two.

Another strike followed, taking out a second vehicle, and as the third car screeched up to help that was also hit. One missile pierced the roof of a Toyota Hilux, carrying WCK logos.

Married dad-of-two Mr Chapman, from Poole, had been in Gaza only a few weeks after stints in the Middle East.

He was a very well-liked guy, a very popular bloke and this is a huge loss for his family, his friends and for the veteran community

Former comrade

A former comrade paid tribute yesterday, saying: “He was a very well-liked guy, a very popular bloke and this is a huge loss for his family, his friends and for the veteran community.

“People trying to deliver aid into Gaza are doing the right thing and they need support and protection from people like John and his colleagues to do their job.”

A friend of Mr Henderson, of Truro, Cornwall, said: “Everybody is gutted, he was a lovely lad. He’d been there a few weeks.”

Palestinian Nael Eliyan, living in a tent yards from the incident, ran to the wreckage but said: “Their injuries were serious and they died quickly.”

Bloodied UK, Polish & Australian passports were found in the wrecked cars

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Bloodied UK, Polish & Australian passports were found in the wrecked carsCredit: AP
Rishi Sunak told Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu he was appalled by the strike

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Rishi Sunak told Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu he was appalled by the strikeCredit: Alamy

Bloodied passports were found in the wrecked cars.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said: “The news of the airstrike is deeply distressing.

“These were people working to deliver life-saving aid to those who desperately need it. It’s essential that humanitarian workers are protected and able to carry out their work.”

Their injuries were serious and they died quickly

Palestinian Nael Eliyan

At first the IDF said it was “conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident”.

A few hours later Mr Netanyahu admitted the victims were killed by his own forces.

WCK was launched in 2010 by US Michelin-starred chef José Andrés after he visited Haiti following the devastating earthquake which killed more than 100,000 people.

‘People angels’

The charity has since worked worldwide, including in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in 2022.

It has been active in Gaza since Israel declared war on Hamas after the terror group slaughtered more than 1,110 people on October 7.

WCK say they have served around 240,000 meals a day — a total of 42 million — and have been central in establishing a maritime aid corridor between Cyprus and Gaza.

The hostilities have meant aid has struggled to reach Palestinians by land, so WCK and Cypriot authorities last month established the first aid delivery by sea.

A second convoy of three ships carrying 400 tons of aid landed on Monday, with the IDF involved in coordinating the delivery.

The WCK vehicles were in the process of transporting that aid to 1.7 million Palestinians forced from their homes by war.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society recovered the bodies and transported them to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah.

Another victim, Polish volunteer Damian Sobol, was described as a “brave compatriot” who had helped Ukrainian refugees.

The body of Palestinian driver Saif Issam Abu Taha was taken to his hometown of Rafah.

Also killed was Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 44, from Melbourne, Australia. In all more than 200 aid workers have now been killed during the fighting.

WCK founder José said: “I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family.

“These are people angels. No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now.”

This is unforgivable. I am heartbroken and appalled that we lost beautiful lives today

The charity’s chief executive Erin Gore

The charity’s chief executive Erin Gore added: “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. I am heartbroken and appalled that we lost beautiful lives today.”

The charity paused its operations in Gaza, and a second aid group quickly followed suit. Ships carrying around 240 tons of aid headed back to Larnaca in Cyprus.

Israel was sending officials to each of the victims’ countries to present findings from initial investigations. Last night its UK ambassador Tzipi Hotovely was summoned for a meeting at the Foreign Office.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also condemned the strike and said: “Those responsible must be held to account.”

  • Additional reporting: Ryan Sabey and Thomas Godfrey
Ex-Royal Marine James Henderson, 33, was one of the victims

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Ex-Royal Marine James Henderson, 33, was one of the victimsCredit: Linkedin
Aussie Lalzawmi Frankcom also died in the attack, left

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Aussie Lalzawmi Frankcom also died in the attack, leftCredit: Getty
Passport photo of an aid worker who died in the strike

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Passport photo of an aid worker who died in the strikeCredit: Getty
Another victim, Polish volunteer Damian Sobol, was described as a 'brave compatriot'

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Another victim, Polish volunteer Damian Sobol, was described as a ‘brave compatriot’Credit: Reuters
The body of Palestinian driver Saif Issam Abu Taha was taken to his hometown of Rafah

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The body of Palestinian driver Saif Issam Abu Taha was taken to his hometown of RafahCredit: Twitter
Netanyahu admitted carrying out the air strike that killed the seven aid workers

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Netanyahu admitted carrying out the air strike that killed the seven aid workersCredit: EPA

The Sun’s Defence Editor’s analysis of the Middle East tinderbox

By Jerome Starkey, The Sun’s Defence Editor

FEARS that the Middle East could explode into all-out war are ratcheting up today after Iran vowed vengeance for a deadly Israeli missile strike on its embassy in Damascus, the capital of Syria.

At least 11 people were killed when a consular annex was reduced to rubble by strikes which Iran says were carried out by Israeli F-35 fighter jets.

Now among those 11 killed were two top Iranian generals, Brigadier Mohammed Reza Zahidi, who we understand commanded Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, and Brigadier Mohammed Haji Rahimi.

Also among the dead is a representative of the Hezbollah terrorist group Hussein Yusuf.

Both Iran and Hezbollah have vowed vengeance, with Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi saying this strike will not go unanswered.

The suggestion is that perhaps Israel has crossed a threshold with a strike on an embassy.

Embassies are sovereign soil of the nations they belong to, so this was a strike on sovereign Iranian soil in Syria and in one sense it is an escalation and the concerns that this could spiral out are in many ways well founded.

Interestingly today we’ve heard reports in the local media in Syria and in the region that America appears to be distancing itself from this strike, officials saying they had no advanced knowledge.

It would appear that the reason for this missile strike was the meeting between these Revolutionary Guard commanders and the representatives of Hezbollah.

We will now have to wait and see how Iran chooses to take its revenge.

Now of course, if you are an Israeli diplomat living abroad, then you may well think that you are now more of a target.

Because Israel has targeted an Iranian embassy, we may expect to see the possibility that Itan may target Israeli diplomats or missions around the world.

And we have just seen, in the last few days suspected Iranian agents attacking an Iranian journalist here in London.

Tehran is showing, perhaps by this stabbing that it maintains the ability and the capability to attack people it sees as critical of the regime enemies of the regime around the world.

Some context that we understand that Tehran employs criminal proxies to carry out that sort of dirty work doesn’t necessarily have the same sort of sophisticated overseas operations that we might expect of other hostile actors like Russia.

But nonetheless, I think in the wake of what happened in Damascus on Monday, combined with what’s been happening across the region in recent months, there is concern and anxiety to see how Iran responds and what that will elicit from Israel. 

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