World Central Kitchen pauses Gaza aid after saying foreign workers killed in Israeli strike

A boy holds out an empty pot as he waits with other displaced Palestinians queueing for meals provided by a charity organisation ahead of the fast-breaking “iftar” meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas. 

Said Khatib | Afp | Getty Images

Seven staff members of the non-profit World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza overnight, the organization said in a statement Tuesday morning, leading it to pause operations in the war-ravaged territory.

“World Central Kitchen is devastated to confirm seven members of our team have been killed in an IDF strike in Gaza,” the group said. The WCK team was traveling in a deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle.

“Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, 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.”

The organization said it “is pausing our operations immediately in the region” and “will be making decisions about the future of our work soon.”

World Central Kitchen was founded as a charity food organization in 2010 by Michelin-starred celebrity chef Jose Andres, following a major earthquake in Haiti. It has since provided hundreds of millions of meals in conflict zones around the world, including in Ukraine since Russia’s full-fledged invasion of 2022.

“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. This is unforgivable,” the organization’s CEO Erin Gore said.

The seven aid workers killed are from Australia, Poland, United Kingdom, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, and the Palestinian territories, WCK said.

“Today @WCKitchen lost several of our sisters and brothers in an IDF air strike in Gaza,” WCK’s founder Andres wrote. I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family … The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing.

The Israeli Defense Forces did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment. In an early-Tuesday statement cited by the New York Times, the military said that it was “conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.”

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