‘They are heroes to us’: The seven aid workers killed in Monday’s Israeli air strike

Three Britons, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and Palestinian killed

Friends and relatives have mourned the losses of those who were killed in an Israeli air strike while delivering food to besieged Palestinians with the charity World Central Kitchen.

Three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian were killed.

Some had travelled the world, participating in aid efforts in the aftermath of wars, earthquakes and wildfires.

Here’s what we know about those killed.


Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha

The 25-year-old was identified by relatives and hospital workers as the Palestinian aid worker killed. He was buried in a ceremony attended by hundreds in his hometown of Rafah on Tuesday, according to BBC News.

His brother Ahmed Abu Taha said he had worked for World Central Kitchen as a driver since the beginning of the year. “He was a dedicated young man,” his brother said.

Another brother described Taha to the New York Times as an enterprising man who spoke good English and had worked in his father’s business.

The last time he saw his brother, he said, he and others were so excited about getting to unload the desperately needed food, it was “like they were going to a wedding”.

Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom

Friends and family remembered the 43-year-old as a brave, selfless woman whose care for others drew her across the globe. For the last five years, she had worked for World Central Kitchen in the US, Thailand and her native Australia.

“We mourn this fine Australian who has a record of helping out her fellow citizens, whether it be internationally or whether it be through the support that she gave during the bushfires that occurred during that black summer,” prime minister Anthony Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“She is someone who clearly was concerned about her fellow humanity.”

In a statement, relatives described Frankcom as an “outstanding human being” who was “killed doing the work she loves delivering food to the people of Gaza”.

She was born in Melbourne and earned graduated from the Swinburne University of Technology. For eight years, she worked for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s largest bank.

Frankcom’s social media highlighted visits to aid those in need in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Romania and Haiti.

World Central Kitchen colleague Dora Weekley, who met Frankcom responding to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas in 2019, described her as “larger than life”.

She recalled when Frankcom was invited to walk a Hollywood red carpet after a documentary about World Central Kitchen that was nominated for an Emmy.

“I remember getting a picture of her in a dress, saying, ‘Hold on to this forever’,” Weekley told ABC.

“She worked all hours, she gave everything, and she believed in helping people who were less fortunate.”

Damian Sobol

The 35-year-old was known as a cheerful, friendly and resourceful manager who quickly rose in World Central Kitchen’s ranks.

From the southeastern Polish city of Przemysl, where he studied hospitality, Sobol had been on aid missions in Ukraine, Morocco, Turkey and, for the past six months, Gaza.

“He was a really extraordinary guy,” said Marta Wilczynska, of the Free Place Foundation, which co-operates with World Central Kitchen. “We were very proud of him.”

Wilczynska met Sobol on the Polish side of the border with Ukraine a few days after Russia’s February 2022 invasion. He spoke English well and was a translator, and he was a skilled manager who could organise work in any condition, she said. “Always smiling, always so helpful, he loved this job. I felt I had a brother in him.”

Free Place Foundation president Mikolaj Rykowski said Sobol was “the man for every task – he could overcome every difficulty”.

In a post on Facebook, Przemysl mayor Wojciech Bakun said there were “no words to describe how people who knew this fantastic young man feel now”.

John Chapman

The 57-year-old married father of two from the UK was on World Central Kitchen’s security team, the agency said. He had been in Gaza for a few weeks before he was killed, according to the Sun newspaper.

The Times reported Chapman was a former Royal Marine from Cornwall. According to the Sun, he also served in the special boat service, the special forces unit of the Royal Navy.

Chapman’s family said they were “devastated” to have lost him. They said he would be missed dearly and forever be a hero.

“He died trying to help people and was subject to an inhumane act. He was an incredible father, husband, son and brother,” the family said in a statement released by Britain’s Foreign Office.

James Henderson

Jim Henderson (33), from from Penryn, Cornwall, served for six years in the Royal Marines, an elite fighting force of the British navy, according to his LinkedIn page. He formed part of the relief team’s security detail, World Central Kitchen said.

James Kirby

The 47-year-old Kirby was an army veteran and served tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan, according to a statement released by his family via the BBC, which said they were “utterly heartbroken” and that Kirby would be remembered as a hero.

“Despite the risks, his compassionate nature drove him to offer assistance to those in dire need,” the statement said. “James lost his life trying to save others, he will never know what a void he has left, our family will never be the same.”

Kirby’s cousin Adam McGuire told Sky News: “Not only James but the six other individuals are like heroes to us. They went out there selflessly to help some of the most desperate people in the world.”

Jacob Flickinger

The 33-year old dual citizen of the United States and Canada was part of the relief team killed on Monday.

Those responsible for his and his colleague’s deaths must be held accountable, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly said in a social media post that condemned the strikes. – AP/Reuters