Updated Apr 4, 2024 - World

What to know after Israeli attack kills World Central Kitchen workers in Gaza

A view of damaged vehicle carrying Western employees

A view of damaged vehicle carrying World Central Kitchen workers in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on April 2. Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images

World Central Kitchen (WCK), a disaster relief nonprofit founded by the Michelin-starred chef José Andrés, has suspended its operations in Gaza after seven of its workers were killed by an Israeli Defense Force attack.

The big picture: The nonprofit has been one of the few aid organizations able to deliver food to Gaza, where the Israel-Hamas war has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation.

The latest: WCK on Thursday called on Australia, Canada, the U.S., Poland, and the U.K. to join it in demanding an independent investigation to determine whether the attack was intentional or violated international law.

  • Andrés wrote in a New York Times guest essay on Wednesday that the aid workers' deaths were the "direct result" of Israeli policy in its war with Hamas.
  • The strike was a "direct attack" on aid workers traveling in clearly marked vehicles, having coordinated their movements with the Israel Defense Forces, Andrés wrote.
  • "It was also the direct result of a policy that squeezed humanitarian aid to desperate levels" by forcing aid to be delivered by sea, he added.

Here's what to know about the organization, its impact and the latest reaction to the attack.

What is World Central Kitchen?

The NGO provides meals to communities around the world that are reeling from war, natural disasters and other calamities.

  • Andrés founded WCK in 2010 after assisting with the humanitarian response to a devastating earthquake in Haiti.
  • As a nonprofit, the organization is funded via individual donations, foundations, and public charities, per Philanthropy News Digest.

Zoom in: Andrés is a prominent fixture in the Washington D.C. dining scene, with more than half a dozen restaurants around the DMV.

Zoom out: WCK has operated in more than 45 countries.

What happened to WCK aid workers in Gaza?

WCK workers were leaving a warehouse in Gaza in two armored cars — branded with the WCK logo — when they were hit by the airstrikes, the nonprofit said in the press release.

  • The attack occurred despite the fact that the NGO had coordinated its movements with the IDF, WCK noted.
  • The seven aid workers killed were from Australia, Poland, the U.K. and Palestine. One was a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada.
  • British Foreign Sec. David Cameron said in a post on X Tuesday that three British nationals were among those killed.

Gaza has become "one of the world's most dangerous and difficult places to work," since the start of the war, said Jamie McGoldrick, interim UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in a press release Tuesday.

  • At least 196 aid workers have been killed since the start of the war, McGoldrick added.

Reactions to Israel's attack on WCK workers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the airstrikes were "unintentional" and that Israel is "thoroughly investigating" the incident.

  • The preliminary IDF debrief into the incident found it to be the result of a misidentification, at night, in very complex conditions, IDF Chief of Staff Halevi said.

President Biden said in a statement Tuesday that he was "outraged and heartbroken" by the deaths of the aid workers and said he had spoken with Andrés by phone to deliver his condolences.

World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore said in a press release Tuesday: "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."

How did WCK operate in Gaza?

WCK has been leading the efforts to get food to Gaza by sea as many Gazans face the prospect of famine. Andrés wrote Wednesday that the nonprofit had served more than 43 million meals to people in Gaza at 68 community kitchens.

State of play: WCK has been working with the United Arab Emirates to deliver food to Gaza via a maritime route with ships from Cyprus.

  • WCK's first maritime shipment of 200 tons food aid arrived in Gaza on March 20.
  • A second shipment of food recently left Cyprus on its way to Gaza.
  • Three ships carrying the shipment arrived in Gaza on Monday, but two-thirds of the aid is now heading back to Cyprus as a result of the nonprofit's pause in operations, NBC News reported.
  • The UAE paused its involvement in the maritime aid route to Gaza on Tuesday pending assurance from Israel that aid workers in the enclave will be protected, Axios' Barak Ravid reports.

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Editor's note: This story was updated with background and new developments and reaction.

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