World

Family and friends recall ‘selfless’ aid workers killed in Israeli airstrike

Killed were three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian.

(Abdel Kareem Hana/AP)
APTOPIX Israel Palestinians (Abdel Kareem Hana/AP) (Abdel Kareem Hana/AP)

Friends and relatives have mourned the losses of those who were killed in an Israeli airstrike while delivering food to besieged Palestinians with the charity World Central Kitchen.

Killed were three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian. Some had travelled the world, participating in aid efforts in the aftermath of wars, earthquakes and wildfires.

Not all of the workers have been identified yet. Here is a look at those who have been named.

Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike (Ismael Abu Dayyah/AP)
APTOPIX Israel Palestinians Palestinians inspect a vehicle with the logo of the World Central Kitchen wrecked by an Israeli airstrike (Ismael Abu Dayyah/AP) (Ismael Abu Dayyah/AP)

– Saif Issam Abu Taha

The 27-year-old was identified by relatives and hospital workers as the Palestinian aid worker killed.

His brother Ahmed Abu Taha confirmed he had worked for World Central Kitchen as a driver since the beginning of the year.

“He was a dedicated young man,” his brother said.

Another brother described Mr Taha to the New York Times as an enterprising man who spoke good English and had worked in his father’s business.

The last time he saw his brother, he told the newspaper, he and others were so excited about getting to unload the desperately needed food, it was “like they were going to a wedding”.

Zomi Frankcom of Australia (Free Place Foundation’s Facebook via AP)
Israel Palestinians Zomi Frankcom of Australia (Free Place Foundation’s Facebook via AP) (AP)

– Lalzawmi ‘Zomi’ Frankcom

Friends and family remembered the 43-year-old as a brave, selfless woman whose care for others drew her across the globe. For the last five years, she had worked for Washington-based World Central Kitchen, taking her to the US, Thailand and her native Australia.

“We mourn this fine Australian who has a record of helping out her fellow citizens, whether it be internationally or whether it be through the support that she gave during the bushfires that occurred during that Black Summer,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“She is someone who clearly was concerned about her fellow humanity.”

In a statement, relatives described Ms Frankcom as an “outstanding human being” who was “killed doing the work she loves delivering food to the people of Gaza”.

She was born in Melbourne and earned a bachelor’s from the Swinburne University of Technology. For eight years, she worked for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s largest bank.

Ms Frankcom’s social media highlighted visits to aid those in need in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Romania and Haiti.

World Central Kitchen colleague Dora Weekley, who met Ms Frankcom responding to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas in 2019, described her as “larger than life.”

She recalled when Ms Frankcom was invited to walk a Hollywood red carpet, for a documentary about World Central Kitchen that was nominated for an Emmy.

“I remember getting a picture of her in a dress, saying, ‘Hold onto this forever’,” Ms Weekley told ABC.

“Because usually I’m in sweats and runners, and I’m in Pakistan or Afghanistan or, you know, she could be anywhere, and never with her hair done or make-up done.”

“She worked all hours, she gave everything, and she believed in helping people who were less fortunate.”

Damian Sobol of Poland (Free Place Foundation’s Facebook via AP)
Israel Palestinians Damian Sobol of Poland (Free Place Foundation’s Facebook via AP) (AP)

– Damian Sobol

The 36-year-old was known as a cheerful, friendly and resourceful manager who quickly rose in World Central Kitchen’s ranks.

Hailing from the southeastern Polish city of Przemysl and studying hospitality there, Mr Sobol had been on aid missions in Ukraine, Morocco, Turkey and, for the past six months, Gaza.

”He was a really extraordinary guy,” said Marta Wilczynska, of the Free Place Foundation, which co-operates with World Central Kitchen.

“We were very proud of him.”

Ms Wilczynska met Mr Sobol on the Polish side of the border with Ukraine, a few days after Russia’s February 2022 invasion. He spoke English well and was a translator, and he was a skilled manager who could organise work in any condition, she said.

“Always smiling, always so helpful, he loved this job. I felt I had a brother in him,” Ms Wilczynska said.

Free Place Foundation president Mikolaj Rykowski said Mr Sobol was “the man for every task — he could overcome every difficulty”.

Posting on Facebook, Przemysl Mayor Wojciech Bakun said of Mr Sobol’s death that there are “no words to describe how people who knew this fantastic young man feel now”.