Australian aid worker killed in Gaza by air strike

Photos of what is claimed to be the dead aid workers' passports are circulating on social media and through international picture agencies.

Photos of what is claimed to be the dead aid workers' passports are circulating on social media and through international picture agencies. Photo: Getty

An Australian woman is among five aid workers killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza, the Hamas-run Gaza government media office says.

Those killed in the incident in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah also included Polish and British citizens, as well as a Palestinian, a spokesman for the media office said.

“We are aware of reports that members of the World Central Kitchen team have been killed in an IDF attack while working to support our humanitarian food delivery efforts in Gaza,” WCK posted on X.

“This is a tragedy. Humanitarian aid workers and civilians should NEVER be a target. EVER.”

Commenting on the reports, the Israeli military said 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 military statement said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was investigating the claims.

“[The reports] are indeed very concerning. I am very concerned about the loss of life that is occurring in Gaza,” he said.

“My government has supported a sustainable ceasefire and called for the release of hostages, and there have been far too many innocent lives of Palestinians and Israelis lost during the Gaza and Hamas conflict.”

Photos circulating on social media and through photographic agencies show what appears to be the bodies of the dead aid workers and their translator, along with passports.

The WCK delivers food relief and prepares meals for people in need. It said last month it had served more than 42 million meals in Gaza over 175 days.

Earlier Israeli forces withdrew from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after a two-week operation by special forces who detained hundreds of suspected Palestinian militants and left a wasteland of destroyed buildings.

With access to Gaza’s biggest hospital severely restricted, the Israeli and Palestinian versions differed sharply.

Palestinian officials called the raid on a hospital treating severely wounded patients a war crime. Israeli officials said special forces units conducted a targeted strike against a Hamas stronghold deliberately located among vulnerable civilians.

Thousands of Palestinians – 6200 according to the Israeli military – had been sheltering in the complex, one of few locations in the north of Gaza with some access to electricity and water.

Ismail Al-Thawabta, director of the Hamas-run Gaza media office, said Israeli forces had killed 400 Palestinians in and around the hospital including a woman doctor and her son, also a doctor, and put the facility out of action.

“They bulldozed the courtyards, burying dozens of bodies of martyrs in the rubble, turning the place into a mass graveyard,” he said.

“This is a crime against humanity.”

Hamas and medics deny any armed presence in hospitals but Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the site had been turned into a major operating centre by the Palestinian armed groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

He said emergency patients were evacuated from the hospital before the operation and said no Palestinian civilians, patients or medical personnel had been harmed by Israeli forces.

“They’re using those places, they know it’s a safe haven, they know that they use it intentionally as their command and control centre,” he said on Monday (local time).

He said 200 militants and two Israeli servicemen had been killed during the operation and more than 900 suspected militants detained, of whom some 500 were identified as Hamas or Islamic Jihad, including senior commanders and officials.

He said documents recovered by Israeli forces showed the hospital was used as a base to control the northern section of the Gaza Strip, which has largely been destroyed since the start of the ground invasion in October.

As well as weapons and computers equipment, cash worth more than $US3 million ($4.6 million) was also recovered, he said.

“It was a significant operation in terms of the blow that Hamas and Islamic Jihad suffered,” Hagari said.

Hamas said Israel detained 350 people from inside Shifa, including patients and displaced people and dozens of others from districts nearby.

It was the second major Israeli incursion into Al Shifa Hospital after an earlier operation in November.

– with AAP

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