Zomi Frankcom, World Central Kitchen aid worker killed in airstrike in Gaza, was on ground in NYC during height of the pandemic


NEW YORK — President Joe Biden says he is outraged over the Israeli airstrike that killed seven aid workers delivering food in Gaza.

On Tuesday, World Central Kitchen released the identities of the victims. At least one was an American citizen and another was on the ground in New York City during the height of the pandemic.

The U.S.-based charity is now pausing operations in Gaza, as fears of famine in the country mount.

On a recent video, Australian chef Zomi Frankcom described her work in Gaza with World Central Kitchen. Her smile was a source of comfort in New York City in April 2020, when Frankcom was on the ground cooking and delivering meals with SOMOS Community Care during the pandemic.

“People were dying and she was preparing the food and deliver to people in the line. She was really a person that you could rely in difficult times. Some people say she was an angel,” said Dr. Ramon Tallaj, founder and chairman of SOMOS Community Care.

On Tuesday, Frankcom was confirmed to be among the at least seven World Central Kitchen workers killed by IDF airstrikes on Monday.

The nonprofit immediately paused operations there.

Video from the attack shows a blackened hole piercing the company’s logo, which was supposed to have made the vehicles identifiable from the air.

The nonprofit said the other victims are three British nationals, a Polish national, a dual American-Canadian citizen and a Palestinian driver.

The driver was a relative of a staffer at Project Hope, which operates two medical clinics in Gaza. In response, those closed, too.

“Project Hope tragically lost one of our staff to rocket fire over a month ago and this one was different in that it was a very highly marked,” said Chris Skopec, executive vice president of Project Hope. “So it really made us rethink the level of safety.”

The American Near East Refugee Aid organization, or ANERA, which delivers food and medical supplies, also paused operations.

“We still don’t have answer on killing of our own staff from Israeli military,” Chief Development Officer Derek Madsen said. “Given that, we give such deep level of detail to the Israeli government about our locations. There has to be some combination of assurance from people we’re supplying info to.”

World Central Kitchen said it had coordinated its movements with the Israeli military, as it tried to help ease what the United Nations calls famine conditions in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged responsibility.

“Unfortunately, in the last day, there was a tragic incident where our forces unintentionally struck innocent people in the Gaza Strip. It happens in war and we are thoroughly investigating it,” Netanyahu said.

“I just spoke to World Central Kitchen founder, Chef Jose Andres, and expressed the deepest condolences of Israel Defense Forces to the families,” Israel military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said.

National Security spokesman John Kirby said a preliminary investigation is being presented to the Army chief of staff.

“We hope that those findings will be made public and that there is appropriate accountability held,” Kirby said. “More than 200 aid workers have been killed in this conflict, making it one of the worst for aid workers in recent history. This incident is emblematic of a larger problem.”

Kirby added the U.S. will do all it can to deliver assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

The United Nation’s World Food Program said World Central Kitchen has contributed significantly to combating catastrophic hunger there.

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