Interfaith memorial held for WCK workers killed in Israeli strike in Gaza

Aid group’s founder Jose Andres pays tribute to seven volunteers at Washington ceremony attended by VP’s husband Douglas Emhoff, other senior officials and diplomats

World Central Kitchen (WCK) founder Jose Andres (L) attends an interfaith memorial service for the seven WCK workers killed in Gaza, at the Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, DC, on April 25, 2024. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
World Central Kitchen (WCK) founder Jose Andres (L) attends an interfaith memorial service for the seven WCK workers killed in Gaza, at the Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, DC, on April 25, 2024. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

WASHINGTON — A ceremony for seven aid workers of the World Central Kitchen killed by an Israeli strike in Gaza was held in Washington on Thursday.

The founder of the US-based charity, Spanish-American chef Jose Andres, attended the interdenominational “celebration of life” at the National Cathedral in the US capital.

“They risked everything to feed people they did not know,” Andres said at the ceremony attended by Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, and Kurt Campbell, the deputy secretary of state, as well as diplomats from more than 30 countries and officials from both the State Department and the US Agency for International Development.

Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, one of the most active lawmakers pushing US President Joe Biden to condition military aid on improved Israeli treatment of aid workers and Palestinian civilians, joined the mourners as a lone bagpiper played.

American cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed at the ceremony.

In a broken voice, Andres paid tribute to the seven volunteers — Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, from Gaza; Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43, from Australia; Damian Soból, 35, from Poland; Jacob Flickinger, 33, from the US and Canada; John Chapman, 57, from the UK; James (Jim) Henderson, 33, from the UK; and James Kirby, 47, from the UK.

American cellist Yo-Yo Ma performs during an interfaith memorial service for the seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) workers killed in Gaza, at the Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, DC, on April 25, 2024. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

In response to the WCK strike, which sparked global outrage, Israel has increased the number of aid trucks entering Gaza. The military has dismissed two officers and formally reprimanded senior commanders over the bombing, which it called a tragic mistake.

The probe found that the strike was ordered against the convoy of WCK vehicles after officers suspected they carried a Hamas gunman, despite a low level of confidence, and against army regulations. The officers did not identify the vehicles as belonging to WCK when the strike was ordered, according to the investigation.

The victims of the IDF strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy in Gaza (Clockwise from top right):
Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, Damian Soból, Jacob Flickinger, James Kirby, James (Jim) Henderson and John Chapman. (World Central Kitchen/X)

The WCK convoy had been coordinated with the IDF, although information on its route was not passed down from senior commanders to the officers on the ground who ultimately called in the attack, the probe found.

World Central Kitchen suspended its activities in Gaza after the incident, having been active in feeding people in the territory since the start of the war in October.

“We haven’t given up,” World Central Kitchen spokesperson Linda Roth said last week. “We are in funeral mode right now.”

AP contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: