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The US National Security Council has urged Israel to investigate after seven members of the humanitarian organisation World Central Kitchen were killed in an air strike in Gaza on Monday night.

The organisation said on Tuesday that seven people had died in what it said was a strike by the Israel Defense Forces. The staff were travelling in a “deconflicted zone in two armored cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle”, it added.

“Despite co-ordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse,” WCK said, adding that the team had just unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid for Gaza, where aid groups have warned of the risk of imminent famine.

The dead WCK workers included Australian, Polish, UK and Palestinian staff members, as well as a dual US-Canadian citizen, the organisation said.

Erin Gore, World Central Kitchen’s chief executive, said the incident was “an attack on humanitarian organizations” and “unforgivable”.

“We — World Central Kitchen and the world — lost beautiful lives today because of a targeted attack by the IDF,” she said.

The IDF said it was “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 in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,” it said in a statement.

NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson wrote in a post on X that the US was “heartbroken and deeply troubled” by the strike on the WCK workers.

“Humanitarian aid workers must be protected as they deliver aid that is desperately needed, and we urge Israel to swiftly investigate what happened,” she wrote.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed that an Australian national named Zomi Frankcom was among those killed in the strike.

“Australia expects full accountability for the deaths of aid workers, which is completely unacceptable,” Albanese said on Tuesday. “Aid workers, and those doing humanitarian work, and indeed all innocent civilians, need to be provided with protection.”

World Central Kitchen was founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, who earlier said in a post on X that the organisation had “lost several of our sisters and brothers in an IDF air strike in Gaza”.

WCK was heavily involved in the first delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza via sea last month. Last week it oversaw the delivery of a second maritime consignment to the enclave.

The charity said last month that it had provided 42mn meals to Gaza’s 2.3mn people since the start of the war, which has taken a devastating toll on the enclave.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 32,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials, as well as displacing 1.7mn of its inhabitants and reducing huge swaths of the territory to rubble.

The UN warned last month that 1.1mn people in Gaza faced “catastrophic levels of food insecurity” and warned of a “staggering escalation” in the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition. The World Health Organization said last week that the health system in the strip was “barely surviving”, with only 10 of its 36 hospitals “partially functioning”.

Israel launched its assault in response to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, during which militants killed 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

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