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World Central Kitchen workers face danger: 7 killed in Gaza by Israeli airstrike

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli army's chief of staff have apologized for the strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza. In a statement, Netanyahu called it a tragic incident and vowed a swift and transparent investigation. World Central Kitchen has now suspended its operations in Gaza, where a man-made famine is imminent, according to the United Nations. NPR's Adrian Florido has more on the private aid group that's been a major participant in delivering meals in Gaza and other areas facing humanitarian crises around the world.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: The Spanish chef Jose Andres founded the World Central Kitchen after the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. Ever since, the group has been showing up to feed people in places devastated by disaster or war. It's often one of the first aid groups to arrive, and it's drawn attention for its willingness to push boundaries to get around logistical hurdles. Last month, it used rubble to build a makeshift pier off Gaza's coast, becoming the first organization to deliver aid by sea - rice, lentils and canned meat. Andres told NBC News that that jetty was just a start.

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JOSE ANDRES: And from that jetty just built a bigger one that will allow us to hopefully bring more and more boats, bigger and bigger quantities.

FLORIDO: Until now, World Central Kitchen has been operating out of 68 community kitchens in Gaza, where its staff and volunteers have prepared more than 40 million meals. It sent most of its food in on trucks from Egypt. But on many days, none have managed to cross into Gaza - thus the need for deliveries by sea and through airdrops.

KEN ROTH: World Central Kitchen was very bravely trying to deliver food to the starving people of Gaza.

FLORIDO: Ken Roth is former director of Human Rights Watch and says that even so, what private groups like World Central Kitchen have been able to get permission from Israel to deliver is not nearly enough to prevent starvation. Still, he thinks the killing of the aid workers will have big implications.

ROTH: I think it's going to make aid workers even more reluctant to risk their lives to go to northern Gaza, where famine is most imminent, and the people of Gaza are going to suffer immensely.

FLORIDO: World Central Kitchen has grown fast in recent years. It's responded to disasters in Turkey, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and other places. But the group has also faced criticism that, in its drive to work quickly, it's overlooked safety concerns. Speaking with MORNING EDITION in December, Andres addressed that.

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ANDRES: I think with humanitarian aid, there are risks. But from there to say that Jose Andres puts people in danger - I never be able to tell anybody to do what I'm not willing to do on my own.

FLORIDO: This isn't the first time his group has lost workers. Several have been killed by Russian strikes in Ukraine. And the seven killed in Gaza were just the latest among hundreds of aid workers who've been killed since Israel began its bombardment in response to Hamas' October 7 attack. Since World Central Kitchen said it will suspend its work in Gaza, other aid groups have said they will, too, out of safety concerns. In a post on X, Jose Andres mourned his dead workers and wrote that, quote, "the Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing."

Adrian Florido, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) 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.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.
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