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Jacob Flickinger, WCK aid worker killed in Gaza, wanted to ‘help others’


When Jacob Flickinger went to the Gaza Strip three weeks ago to distribute food with World Central Kitchen, he asked his father to tell his mother he was in Cyprus instead. He didn’t want her to worry.

He planned to leave at the end of this week, he told his father, John, on Sunday via text. The two wished each other a happy Easter.

The next day the 33-year-old dual U.S.-Canadian citizen was dead, one of seven World Central Kitchen workers killed by Israeli airstrikes on the aid group’s convoy.

“He was a good man,” his father said. “He was doing what he loved and just wanted to serve and help others.”

Jacob Flickinger was born and spent most of his childhood in Saint-Georges, a small city in Quebec, the son of a Canadian mother and an American father.

Jacob spent nearly a decade in the Canadian Armed Forces and did a tour of duty in Afghanistan, where he served in Kandahar, his father said.

After leaving the military in 2019, he met his partner, Sandy Leclerc, and they had a baby boy. The couple moved to Costa Rica, where Flickinger began building a business as a fitness trainer.

To support his family, he started looking for other opportunities. His first stint with World Central Kitchen was last November, when he spent a month in Mexico in the aftermath of a major hurricane.

When a friend told him about the WCK mobilization in Gaza, he volunteered to help distribute food shipments arriving by sea. The work combined the skills he learned in the military and his desire to help, his father said.

“Women and children are starving to death, it’s all over the news every day,” said John Flickinger, 67. “He felt he could make a small difference.”

Jacob’s death appears to mark the first time an American has been killed in Gaza by the Israel Defense Forces since the war began on Oct. 7 after the Hamas attack on Israel. Nearly 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the territory’s health ministry. The Gaza Health Ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians, but says the majority of the dead are women and children.

At least 21 U.S. citizens serving in the IDF have also been killed in Gaza.

John described his son as a loyal friend, someone who even as a boy was inclined to protect the weak and stand up to aggressors. To support Jacob’s partner and 18-month-old son, John and a friend of Jacob’s launched a fundraiser.

“I want his story to be told,” John said through tears. In war, “the people that suffer are the mothers, the fathers, the sons, the daughters, the survivors of what is insanity.”

Amanda Coletta in Toronto contributed to this report.

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