'Heartbroken' families of British veterans killed in Israeli strike condemn 'inhumane' act that killed seven aid workers

3 April 2024, 10:54 | Updated: 3 April 2024, 16:09

The IDF has admitted to making a 'grave mistake' by attacking the convoy, killing seven including three Brits
The IDF has admitted to making a 'grave mistake' by attacking the convoy, killing seven including three Brits. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane and Christian Oliver

The family of a British special forces officer killed in an Israeli airstrike along with six others while delivering aid to Gaza have declared their loved one died in 'an inhumane act'.

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John Chapman, 57, a former SBS operator was killed alongside fellow British veterans James Kirby, 47, and James Henderson, 33, and four other volunteers from aid charity World Central Kitchen.

The humanitarian aid convoy travelled out of Deir al-Balah, south of Gaza City, in clearly marked World Central Kitchen aid trucks when they were killed in a drone strike.

Israel claimed it "unintentionally" targeted the convoy in a "grave mistake". Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commented on the strike, saying “this happens in wartime".

A statement from Mr Chapman's family read: "We are devastated to have lost John, who was killed in Gaza. He died trying to help people and was subject to an inhumane act. He was an incredible father, husband, son and brother."

A statement from Mr Chapman&squot;s family read: "We are devastated to have lost John, who was killed in Gaza"
A statement from Mr Chapman's family read: "We are devastated to have lost John, who was killed in Gaza". Picture: Supplied
Mr Kirby's family said 'he will be remembered as a hero.'
Mr Kirby's family said 'he will be remembered as a hero.'. Picture: Handout

"We request we be given space and time to grieve appropriately," continued the statement from the veteran's family.

"He was loved by many and will forever be a hero. He will be missed dearly."

It comes after fellow veteran Mr Kirby's family spoke out, hailing him as a "hero" committed to helping "those in dire need".

Mr Kirby’s family said in a statement today: “As a family, we are utterly heartbroken by the loss of our beloved James Kirby. Alongside the other six individuals who tragically lost their lives, he will be remembered as a hero.

"James understood the dangers of venturing into Gaza, drawing from his experiences in the British Armed Forces, where he bravely served tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Despite the risks, his compassionate nature drove him to offer assistance to those in dire need.

"A genuine gentleman, James was always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone, even in the face of senseless violence. James lost his life trying to save others, he will never know what a void he has left, our family will never be the same.

"We are so incredibly proud of who James was and what he achieved. Never stop caring and trying to help people, love will eventually overcome hate."

The IDF has apologised for making a ‘grave mistake’ after the seven aid workers were killed on Monday.

Among the seven aid workers killed, three were from the UK.

They were named as former Royal Marines James (Jim) Henderson, 33 and John Chapman, 57, as well as ex-soldier Mr Kirby, 47.

The workers were killed while travelling in marked vehicles as part of the World Central Kitchen's (WCK) charity convoy on Gaza’s coastal road in Deir Balah, central Gaza.

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has now apologised for the killings, as the force’s chief admitted it was a "mistake" that "shouldn’t have happened”.

Speaking in a video posted to X, Chief of the General Staff LTG Herzi Halevi said: “I want to be very clear—the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification—at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened.”

Read more: Named: Three British aid workers among victims of Israeli air strike on food convoy

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He also confirmed an independent body would conduct a “thorough investigation” in the coming days and that the results would be implemented immediately and shared with the WCK and other “relevant” international organisations”.

Lt. Gen. Halevi continued: “Israel is at a war with Hamas, not the people of Gaza.

“We will continue taking immediate actions to ensure that more is done to protect humanitarian aid workers," adding that IDF was "sorry for the unintentional harm to the members of WCK."

“We see great importance in the continued delivery of humanitarian aid, and we will keep working to facilitate this vital effort."

It comes after a No. 10 spokesman said that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was “appalled” by the killings.

The spokesman said that Mr Sunak had “demanded a thorough and transparent independent investigation into what happened” during the call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday evening.

Mr Netanyahu previously admitted they were killed in an "unintentional" Israeli strike.

Also among the seven killed in the strike were Australian national Lalzawmi Frankcom, Polish national Damian Sobol, Palestinian Saif Abu Taha and American-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger.

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On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was "absolutely unacceptable" that aid workers were killed by the Israeli Defence Forces.

Mr Trudeau added he was "heartbroken" for the families of those killed.

The deaths of aid workers in Gaza are "completely unacceptable",

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said the deaths are "completely unacceptable" as he called on Israel to explain what happened in the airstrike.

John Chapman (left), James Henderson (middle), James Kirby (right) were killed in the air strike.
John Chapman (left), James Henderson (middle), James Kirby (right) were killed in the air strike. Picture: World Central Kitchen

Mr Sunak told Netanyahu far too many aid workers and ordinary civilians have lost their lives in Gaza and the situation is "increasingly intolerable", the Prime Minister's spokesman added.

They said the UK expects to see "immediate action by Israel to end restrictions on humanitarian aid, deconflict with the UN and aid agencies, protect civilians and repair vital infrastructure like hospitals and water networks".

The Prime Minister also reiterated that Israel’s rightful aim of defeating Hamas would not be achieved by allowing a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza.

33-year-old James Henderson, a former British Special Forces officer, was the first British victim to be pictured after he is believed to have died while volunteering in the region for international aid charity World Central Kitchen (WCK).

The site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip
The site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip. Picture: Alamy

Mr Henderson, from Falmouth, Cornwall, was a member of the Royal Marines for six years and worked in security following his exit from the armed forces, before volunteering for the WCK.

Mr Chapman is the second of the three Britons killed, a former soldier who had only been in Gaza a few weeks, according to reports.

The ex-Royal Marine and married father-of-two had been working for the same security company as Henderson, The Sun reported.

The charity confirmed today that three of the seven aid workers killed "unintentionally" by Israel were British.

Mr Sunak previously told broadcasters during a visit to the north east of England: "We are asking Israel to investigate what happened urgently, because clearly there are questions that need to be answered."

He added: "My thoughts are with their friends and family.

People inspect the site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip
People inspect the site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip. Picture: Alamy

"They are doing fantastic work bringing alleviation to the suffering that many are experiencing in Gaza," he continued.

"They should be praised and commended for what they are doing.

"They need to be allowed to do that work unhindered and it is incumbent on Israel to make sure they can do that."

The convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid taken to Gaza on the maritime route, WCK said.

The aid workers reportedly travelled in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft-skin vehicle.

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