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World leaders condemn Israeli airstrike on disaster relief workers in Gaza

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

World leaders are condemning the killing of seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza. Monday night, an Israeli airstrike hit a convoy from the disaster relief group World Central Kitchen. Israel's prime minister called the incident unintentional. The charity says the strike was targeted and has officially halted its operations in the region. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: In a statement confirming the death of their seven colleagues, World Central Kitchen said its three-car convoy had been coordinating its movements with the Israeli military and that all its vehicles were clearly marked with its logo. Video and images from the scene of the attack show a gaping hole next to the group's insignia in the roof of one vehicle. Another vehicle is seen completely charred. International condemnation of the attack was swift.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER ANTHONY ALBANESE: We want full accountability for this...

KAHN: Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters that one of the seven killed was 42-year-old Zomi Frankcom of Melbourne.

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ALBANESE: ...Because this is a tragedy that should never have occurred.

KAHN: Albanese says the workers should have been protected. The seven include citizens from Poland, the United Kingdom, a dual national of the U.S. and Canada and a Palestinian driver. Frankcom's family said their daughter is leaving behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love.

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ZOMI FRANKCOM: Hey, this is Zomi and Chef Olivier. We're at the Deir al-Balah kitchen, and we've got the mise en place. Tell us a little bit about it, Chef Ollie (ph).

KAHN: Just last week, Frankcom posted a video on social media, beaming with a broad smile as she showed off the array of food being served at the group's central Gaza distribution site. The workers had just helped unload a 100-ton shipment of food to their central Gaza warehouse when they were struck. The U.K.'s foreign secretary called on Israel to make major changes to ensure aid workers' safety. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for a, quote, "swift, thorough and impartial investigation." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted on social media that, quote, "a tragic case of our forces unintentionally harmed innocent people in Gaza."

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PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: "This happens in war," he said, and added that Israel will do everything to prevent this from happening again.

The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, however, called the attack targeted and that nearly 200 aid workers have been killed since the war began October 7. Keith Stintas (ph) with the U.N.'s office coordinating humanitarian affairs says much more is needed to be done for aid workers to operate in a safe and humane manner in Gaza.

KEITH STINTAS: And we've been asking for months for that kind of coordination, for that kind of understanding. That hasn't come yet. We're still asking for basic assurances about the safety of staff and civilians on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: At the World Central Kitchen site in the Tel al-Sultan neighborhood in Rafah, workers on Tuesday were still preparing meals despite the relief agency's announcement they would be suspending operations in Gaza. Volunteer Zakaria Osama Abu Kweik says everyone is shocked by the killings.

ZAKARIA OSAMA ABU KWEIK: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: He says he can't imagine what will happen to Gaza's already-desperate people if the kitchen no longer operates. It's vital to so many people's survival, he says. According to the World Central Kitchen, it has delivered 43 million meals to Palestinians since the start of the war, now nearing the six-month mark.

With Anas Baba in Rafah, I'm Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Tel Aviv.

(SOUNDBITE OF DE LA SOUL SONG, "GREYHOUNDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.