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World Central Kitchen says it will resume operations in Gaza

People stand next to a vehicle in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on April 2, where workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), were killed in Israeli airstrikes, according to the NGO.
Yasser Qudihe
Middle East Images/AFP via Getty
People stand next to a vehicle in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on April 2, where workers from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), were killed in Israeli airstrikes, according to the NGO.

The aid group World Central Kitchen said it was resuming operations in Gaza, less than a month after seven of its staff were killed in Israeli airstrikes.

"The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire. We are restarting our operation with the same energy, dignity, and focus on feeding as many people as possible," CEO Erin Gore said on Sunday.

Gaza residents are experiencing catastrophic levels of hunger and a U.S. official said earlier this month that parts of Gaza are already experiencing famine.

The April 1 strikes in Gaza triggered international criticism of Israel's military, which later admitted it was in "serious violation" of military operating procedures. World Central Kitchen, which distributes meals in disaster zones, had paused its operations there as a result.

"To date we have distributed more than 43 million meals and we are eager to deliver millions more. Food is a universal right and our work in Gaza has been the most life-saving mission in our 14-year organizational history," Gore said in a statement.

Israel cut off food, fuel and medicine to Gaza early in the war. Under international pressure, it has since allowed some aid in, but aid groups say it's far from what's needed. Israel says it is not limiting aid.

Gore said World Central Kitchen has 276 trucks with the equivalent of nearly 8 million meals ready to enter through the Rafah crossing with Egypt. The group also has trucks planned to come from Jordan and is looking to bring food via the sea through Israel's Ashdod Port.

Gore said the group is finalizing construction on a third major kitchen in the Mawasi neighborhood of southern Gaza — a facility they'll call Damian's Kitchen in honor of one of the staff members killed in the strikes.

Those killed in the strikes were Palestinian Saifeddin "Safi" Issam Ayad Abutaha; John Chapman of Britain; Jacob Flickinger of the U.S. and Canada; Lalzawmi "Zomi" Frankcom of Australia; Britons James Henderson and James Kirby; and Damian Sobol of Poland.

The group was founded in 2010 by chef José Andrés, who spoke at a memorial for the seven workers at Washington's National Cathedral on Thursday. "They risked everything to feed people they did not know — and would never meet," he said.

At least 224 humanitarian workers have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war since it began in October, according to the United Nations Security Council, which says the number is more than three times higher than ever recorded in a single conflict in a single year.

Israel apologized for the airstrikes and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country "deeply regrets the tragic incident." The Israeli military said the strikes violated military operating procedures and that senior military officers would be dismissed and reprimanded.

Gore said of the Israeli military: "While we have no concrete assurances, we continue to seek answers and advocate for change with the goal of better protecting WCK and all NGO workers serving selflessly in the worst humanitarian conditions. Our demand for an impartial and international investigation remains."

President Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Sunday. The White House said they discussed "increases in the delivery of humanitarian assistance into Gaza including through preparations to open new northern crossings starting this week. The President stressed the need for this progress to be sustained and enhanced in full coordination with humanitarian organizations."

Israel's military campaign in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Some 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas-led attack in Israel on Oct. 7 and 133 hostages remain in Gaza, some of whom are thought to be dead, Israeli officials say.

Becky Sullivan contributed reporting.

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James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.