Australian aid worker killed in Gaza identified

Frankcom helped coordinate aid in Gaza

Source: World Central Kitchen

The grieving family of an Australian aid worker killed in an apparent Israeli airstrike on Gaza say they are “reeling” from her death.

It came as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned the incident, and Israel’s ambassador to Australia was ordered to front bureaucrats to explain.

Melbourne-born Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom was killed in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, on Monday while working with the World Central Kitchen charity, along with three other international aid workers and their Palestinian driver.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the charity said seven of its workers were killed in the strike. The others were British, Polish, Irish, a dual US-Canadian citizen, and Palestinians.

Footage posted to social media and photographs from international agencies showed the bodies of the dead aid workers at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah. They were still wearing protective gear with the WCF logo, and their passports were also clearly seen.

“We are deeply mourning the news that our brave and beloved Zomi has been killed doing the work she loves delivering food to the people of Gaza. She was a kind, selfless and outstanding human being that has traveled the world helping others in their time of need,” Frankcom’s family said in a statement on Tuesday.

“She will leave behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love for all those in her orbit.

“We are still reeling from the shock and we humbly request privacy during this difficult time”.

zomi frankcom

Zomi Frankcom in Gaza on Monday (left), and with her family. Photos: Frankcom family

Albanese said the incident was “unacceptable”.

“We want full accountability for this, this is a tragedy that should never have occurred,” he said in Queensland on Tuesday.

Israel’s top diplomat in Australia has been ordered into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade over the death, in an escalation in Australia’s response to the violence that has racked Gaza for months.

Frankcom had worked for WCF for five years, having previously been based in Bangkok as senior manager of its Asia operations, according to her LinkedIn. Just two weeks ago, she was shown on WCF’s social media heading to Gaza to help deliver aid.

Earlier, WCF lashed out at reports of the deadly attack.

“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,” it posted on X.

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

According to reports, Frankcom’s group was travelling from northern Gaza into central Gaza when their vehicle was targeted in an airstrike. They were reportedly returning to Rafah after delivering aid to civilians in the north.

Frankcom sent a final selfie to her family back in Australia before she crossed the Gaza checkpoint.

The Israeli military said it was conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of the “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.

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.

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Albanese said he had been in contact with the Israeli government and the Israeli ambassador, seeking “accountability”.

“This is just completely unacceptable,” he said.

“Australia expects full accountability for the deaths of aid workers. Aid workers and those doing humanitarian work, and indeed all innocent civilians, need to be provided with protection.”

Albanese said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had requested a call-in from the Israeli ambassador to Australia.

“We want full accountability for this. This is a tragedy that should never have occurred,” he said.

Albanese said Frankcom had also volunteered at home after bushfires, and had provided aid as a charity volunteer overseas.

“I didn’t have the honour of knowing her, but the sort of values that are shown by someone going into a very dangerous place in order to assist mankind, their fellow humans, it says everything about the character of this young woman,” he said.

“This is a tragedy and my sincere condolences and that of the Australian government go to Zomi’s family, to her friends and all who knew her.”

WCK founding board member Robert Egger paid tribute to Frankcom.

“Sending love, sorrow, and solidarity to my brothers and sisters at World Central Kitchen,” he wrote on Facebook on Tuesday (AEDT).

“Viva dear, caring Zomi Frankcom and her courageous colleagues.”

Elsewhere on social media, Frankcom has been described as a “dear friend” who had “risked her life many times to help those in dire need”.

“Rest in peace our beautiful sister … xox,” a friend wrote.

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 AAP

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