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World Central Kitchen foreign and Palestinian aid workers killed in alleged Israeli strike in Gaza

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An apparent Israeli airstrike killed four foreign aid workers, including a British citizen, and their Palestinian driver, while the group coordinated humanitarian aid in central Gaza, according to health officials and aid workers in the besieged strip.

The group were killed on Gaza’s coastal road in Deir Balah, central Gaza, on Monday night, health officials and a journalist at Al-Aqsa hospital, where the bodies were taken, told The Independent. They sent videos showing the mangled bodies of five individuals, some of them wearing protective gear with the logo of World Central Kitchen charity, which was founded by celebrity chef Jose Andres.

The videos also showed some of the dead individuals’ passports. The hospital source said the foreign aid workers hailed from Britain, Australia, and Poland, respectively, with a fourth believed to be from Ireland.

A Palestinian aid worker in Deir Balah who knew the group told The Independent they were returning from coordinating the distribution of 400 tonnes of food aid that arrived earlier that day via a new sea route from Cyprus to a pier that WCK had recently built. The aid worker asked not to be named for security reasons.

WCK told The Independent the deaths were a “tragedy”.

“We are aware of reports that members of the World Central Kitchen team have been killed in an IDF attack while working to support our humanitarian food delivery efforts in Gaza,” the group said in a statement. “This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER. We will share more information when we have gathered all the facts.”

The Israeli military did not confirm or deny the reports and said it had launched an invesigation.

“Following the reports regarding the World Central Kitchen personnel in Gaza today, the IDF is conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident,” it said.

“The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with WCK in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.”This is not the first time Israel has been accused of bombing humanitarian aid convoys and distribution centres – the United Nations’s Palestinian Refugee Agency said that a tank shell hit one of its aid convoys in February and a supply distribution centre in March.

The workers’ car was allegedly hit by an Israeli strike just after crossing from northern Gaza, after helping deliver aid from the shipment from Cypress, Mahmoud Thabet, a paramedic from the Palestinian Red Crescent who helped bring the bodies to the hospital, told The Associated Press.

Civilians in Deir al-Balah told The Independent there was a wave of airstrikes Monday evening in the area which hit the coastal road, a main access point to North Gaza, and a mosque.

Last month WCK facilitated a shipment carrying 200 tonnes of aid in a pilot run. The Israeli military was involved in coordinating both deliveries.

The alleged strike came hours after Israeli troops ended a devastating two-week raid on Gaza’s largest hospital – al Shifa – leaving the facility a torched, gutted shell, and a swath of destruction in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Footage showed Shifa’s main buildings had been reduced to a charred mess, with what looked like flattened bodies and body parts smashed in the ground, which had been chewed up by bulldozers.

Israel claimed it launched the raid on Shifa because senior Hamas operatives had regrouped there and were planning attacks. After the troops withdrew, hundreds of Palestinians returned to search for lost loved ones or examine the damage – with Palestinian journalists reporting people had been killed by Israeli soldiers.

Among the dead were Ahmed Maqadma and his mother — both doctors at Shifa — and his cousin, said Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta, a Palestinian-British doctor who volunteered at Shifa and other hospitals during the first months of the war before returning to Britain.

The fate of the three had been unknown since they talked by phone with family as they tried to leave Shifa nearly a week ago and the line suddenly went dead. On Monday, relatives found their bodies with gunshot wounds about a block from the hospital, said Abu Sitta, who is in touch with the family.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated with new information.

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