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World Central Kitchen pauses Gaza operations, saying 7 foreign aid killed during IDF attack

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(NEW YORK) — Seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen were killed during an Israel Defense Forces attack in Gaza, the food-relief organization said, adding that it plans to pause its operations in the region.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,” CEO Erin Gore said in a statement. “This is unforgivable.”

The dead included Australian, Polish, British and Palestinian aid workers, WCK said. One worker was a dual American-Canadian citizen, the organization said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his first comments about the deadly incident as he was leaving a hospital after undergoing successful hernia surgery.

“Unfortunately, in the last day, there was a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu said. “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.”

WCK, a non-governmental organization, has been operating in Gaza for months and has said it’s served more than 33 million meals since the start of the conflict. It operates over 60 community kitchens in Gaza with the help of about 400 Palestinians on the ground.

U.S. officials are “heartbroken and deeply troubled” by the strike, Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement on social media.

“Humanitarian aid workers must be protected as they deliver aid that is desperately needed, and we urge Israel to swiftly investigate what happened,” Watson said.

A representative from the organization said WCK was still gathering details about the incident that took place early Tuesday morning.

“This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER,” the representative said in a statement.

The IDF said in a statement that it was conducting a “thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.”

“The IDF makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with WCK in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,” the statement said.

Officials in the United Kingdom were “urgently working” to verify whether British citizens had been killed, David Cameron, the U.K.’s foreign secretary, said in a statement.

“We have called on Israel to immediately investigate and provide a full, transparent explanation of what happened,” he said.

Jose Andres, the chef and founder of WCK, said he was “heartbroken” and “grieving” for the families and friends of the WCK workers who were killed.

“Today @WCKitchen lost several of our sisters and brothers in an IDF air strike in Gaza,” he wrote on X.

He added, “I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family. These are people…angels…I served alongside in Ukraine, Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, Bahamas, Indonesia. They are not faceless…they are not nameless. The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon. No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now.”

IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in a taped message that he had spoken with Andres and “expressed the deepest condolences.”

“We will be opening a probe to examine this serious incident further. This will help us reduce the risk of such an event from occurring again,” he said, adding, “We will get to the bottom of this and we will share our findings transparently.”

ABC News’ Joe Simonetti contributed to this story.

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