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Canberra Today 3°/9° | Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

‘Selfless’ aid worker among 7 killed in Gaza air strike

An Australian woman is believed to be among a group of aid workers killed in Gaza. (AP PHOTO)

By Tess Ikonomou in Canberra

An Australian aid worker killed in an Israeli air strike while delivering food in Gaza has been remembered as a “selfless and outstanding human being”.

Hours after Zomi Frankcom was identified as one of seven foreign aid workers killed in the strike, her family released a statement saying they were “reeling from the shock” of her death.

“We are deeply mourning the news that our brave and beloved Zomi has been killed doing the work she loves delivering food to the people of Gaza,” they said in the statement.

“She was a kind, selfless and outstanding human being that has travelled the world helping others in their time of need.

“She will leave behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love for all those in her orbit.”

Ms Frankcom’s death prompted demands from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for accountability as to how the air strike occurred.

“We want full accountability for this, this is a tragedy that should never have occurred,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Queensland on Tuesday.

The government was “urgently” investigating the incident, he said.

Israel’s top diplomat in Australia has been requested for a call-in by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade over the death.

The Israeli military has confirmed it is investigating the deaths of the group who worked for World Central Kitchen, a charity that delivers meals to people displaced during humanitarian emergencies.

World Central Kitchen issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying it was pausing operations in Gaza as a result of the deaths.

“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,” World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore said.

The group revealed the last movements of its team before the air strike, saying they were “travelling in a deconflicted zone in two armoured 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 group’s release stated.

“I am heartbroken and appalled that we – World Central Kitchen and the world – lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF,” Ms Gore said.

“The love they had for feeding people, the determination they embodied to show that humanity rises above all, and the impact they made in countless lives will forever be remembered and cherished.”

Mr Albanese said his government has supported a “sustainable ceasefire”.

“I’m very concerned about the loss of life that is occurring in Gaza,” he told ABC radio.

“We’ve called for the release of hostages and there have been far too many innocent lives, Palestinian and Israeli, lost during the Gaza-Hamas conflict.”

It was originally believed that four aid workers had died but World Central Kitchen upgraded that to seven on Tuesday afternoon.

The other aid workers who died were from Britain, Poland and Palestine while another was a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, according to their employer.

The Israel Defense Forces says it is conducting a “thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident”.

“The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with WCK (World Central Kitchen) in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,” it said in a statement.

The Australian Council for International Development said it expressed its deepest condolences to the family of Ms Frankcom.

“It is truly tragic that an Australian aid worker, working to provide food to starving civilians, has been killed in this fashion,” chief executive Marc Purcell said.

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