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Family of British charity worker James Kirby killed in Israel airstrike demands apology from 'disrespectful' Netanyahu

4 April 2024, 17:08

James Kirby was one of seven people killed in an Israeli air strike
James Kirby was one of seven people killed in an Israeli air strike. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

A relative of James Kirby, one of the British aid workers killed by an Israeli airstrike, has said Benjamin Netanyahu's comments on the group's deaths were "disrespectful".

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Mr Kirby, 47, John Chapman, 57, and James Henderson, 33, were among seven people killed while travelling in marked vehicles as part of a charity convoy for World Central Kitchen in Gaza on Monday night.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said their deaths were "tragic", but added that "it happens in war". IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi later apologised.

Mr Kirby's cousin Adam McGuire told LBC's Tom Swarbrick that Mr Netanyahu's comments were "unacceptable" and "disrespectful."

He added: "We all know where they were, and what they were doing. He could have offered an apology is not as if they were there on working on either side. They were directly in the middle of trying to help help the most desperate people in the world, civilians, women, children, people who couldn't look after themselves.

Read more: Pictured: Two British aid workers and former Royal Marines among seven killed in Israeli strike on Gaza

Read more: UN suspends aid movements in Gaza at night after charity worker deaths

'He was selfless, he'd help anybody... I hope this is a turning point' says Adam McGuire, cousin of James Kirby who was one of the three British aid workers killed in Israel

"You could have stood up and said: 'Look, we've we've made this mistake, and we're sorry. I know his chief of staff did give an apology. But that was just a little bit too late.'"

Mr Netanyahu said: "Unfortunately, in the last 24 hours there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip.

"It happens in war, we check it to the end, we are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again."

Rishi Sunak has called the deaths "appalling" and demanded that Mr Netanyahu "immediately investigate" them.

James Kirby
James Kirby. Picture: Alamy
John Chapman
John Chapman. Picture: Alamy
James 'Jim' Henderson
James 'Jim' Henderson. Picture: Alamy

However, the PM went on to defend the UK's "careful export licensing regime" amid calls for the UK to cease all arms sales to Israel.

Meanwhile the United Nations has suspended aid movements after dark in Gaza for at least 48 hours following the killings. World Central Kitchen and other charities have also suspended aid operations.

Mr McGuire said the origins of the weapons were "more of a side issue".

He added: "My only thought now is that this could be a turning point in the charities being able to get into Gaza. I understand that people want to look at how these weapons were used against their own people, potentially.

Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah
Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah. Picture: Alamy

"But if this could be a turning point to get people around the table that can now start... these charities being able to do their work, I think the focus needs to be more on that".

Mr McGuire said that he hoped Mr Sunak, Foreign Secretary David Cameron, and other world leaders, "can get the sides to sit down and just arrange for aid to flow into Gaza" and give charity workers more protection.

Israel has said it will carry out an independent investigation into the airstrike.

Mr McGuire said: "I just hope that the government can put pressure on them to make sure that we get get the investigation, clear and transparent of exactly what actually happened.

"I'm not sure whether we'll get that but I just hope we do for everyone's sake or the families."

He said of his cousin: "He was selfless in his actions - he would help anybody".

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