How Australian aid worker Zomi Frankcom’s convoy was ruthlessly targeted by Israeli drone in Gaza

Andy Jehring, Mark Nicol and David Averre
Daily Mail
4 Min Read
One of the damaged vehicles after the Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza.
One of the damaged vehicles after the Israeli attack in Deir al-Balah, Gaza. Credit: Anadolu/Anadolu via Getty Images

Late on Monday night three cars from the World Central Kitchen pulled out of the organisation’s warehouse in Gaza to distribute aid to Palestinians.

Each vehicle was clearly marked as working for the humanitarian organisation, followed an IDF-approved route and had GPS trackers and SOS beacons broadcasting their positions.

But despite taking every precaution, the seven brave volunteers inside the cars were being watched — and were soon deemed hostile targets and eliminated.

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Among the doomed passengers were former Royal Marine James Henderson, 33; former Special Boat Service soldier John Chapman, 57; as well as a British military veteran named on Tuesday night by the BBC as James Kirby.

Each were well-versed in operating in the most hostile environments on the planet and would have briefed the IDF of their exact movements and plans that night.

They were accompanying Polish aid worker Damian Sobol and his Australian colleague Lalzawmi Frankcom, as well as a US-Canadian dual national and a local driver, Saif Abu Taha.

Israeli forces had seen the volunteers entering the main distribution hub in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, with a larger convoy to collect the aid.

A member of the IDF unit had identified an armed man as a potential threat on one of the trucks that had accompanied the three humanitarian vehicles, a security source told Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

While neither the suspect nor the truck left with the World Central Kitchen (WCK) cars, a Hermes 450 drone was scrambled to follow them.

Two of the cars had some form of armour plating, while the third was a ‘soft-skinned’ 4x4, and all of them had clear WCK markings on the roof and doors.

Despite this, the IDF unit responsible for securing the area ordered UAV operators to attack one of the vehicles shortly before midnight.

It deployed a precision R9X Hellfire missile which smashed into one of the armoured cars.

Zomi Frankcom, an Australian aid worker, has been killed in Gaza.
Zomi Frankcom was described by her family as a “kind, selfless and outstanding human being”. Credit: World Central Kitchen/X

Passengers were seen scrambling from the wreckage and jumping into the other two vehicles.

They informed authorities monitoring their movements that they had been hit and sped off.

After travelling just 900 metres the Hermes 450 fired once more.

The second armoured car was hit, leaving just the soft-skinned 4x4 remaining.

Surviving passengers loaded the wounded into the final vehicle and pulled away.

But having made it 1.5km further along the coastal road the UAV fired for a third time — blasting the remaining vehicle to bits.

Local Nael Eliyan, living in a tent yards away, sprinted to the wreckage.

“Their injuries were serious and they died quickly,” he said.

Harrowing pictures showed how a huge hole had been blown in the roof of one car, with its interior torn to shreds.

Another vehicle was missing most of its rear end.

The passports of slain aid workers, including Zomi Frankcom's, are held up after the airstrike.
The passports of slain aid workers, including Zomi Frankcom's, are held up after the airstrike. Credit: Supplied/X

By 1am local time images were being shared on social media showing the bloodied corpses of the seven victims laid out in a nearby building.

There were also images of the passports of Mr Chapman and Mr Henderson, which were found at the scene.

As news of the “unforgivable” disaster spread, loved ones around the world began to pay tribute.

Relatives of Mr Henderson in Falmouth, Cornwall, heard of his death on Tuesday morning.

A friend told the Mail: “He hadn’t been out there long, only a couple of weeks. He was a lovely lad.”

Mr Henderson had served in the Royal Marines for six years before going to work for security contractors.

He and the other two British men were reportedly working for Solace Global, a security firm based in Poole, Dorset.

Mr Chapman, a former Royal Marine and SBS soldier, lived nearby with his wife and their two children.

Mrs Chapman was too upset to talk on Tuesday night.

RAFAH, GAZA - APRIL 02: People become emotional as they receive the bodies of World Central Kitchen workers who were killed by Israeli air strikes on April 02, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza. In a statement, the charity World Central Kitchen said that seven of its workers were killed while driving in a convoy after leaving a warehouse in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, where they had unloaded humanitarian food aid brought there via ship.(Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)
World Central Kitchen workers mourn the loss of their colleagues. Credit: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

A former comrade told The Sun: “He was a very well-liked guy, a very popular bloke and this is a huge loss for his family, his friends and for the veteran community.

“People trying to deliver aid into Gaza are doing the right thing and they need support and protection from people like John and his colleagues.”

Hundreds gathered in Gaza to mourn the driver, Saif Abu Taha, whose body was transported to Rafah, his home town, where his relatives and friends carried him on their shoulders.

A close friend who gave his name as Hassan said: “Our hearts are broken by your death, Saif. You have hurt us with your passing, and we will not forget you.”

Aussie Lalzawmi Frankcom died “doing the work she loves”, her family said in a statement.

The aid worker, who was from Melbourne, was described as a “kind, selfless and outstanding human being [who] travelled the world helping others in their time of need”.

Damian Sobol, from Przemysl in south-eastern Poland, was described in a Facebook post as a “fantastic boy” by the city’s mayor, who said that words could not describe how those who had known him were feeling.

More than 196 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since October, according to the US-funded Aid Worker Security Database, which records major incidents of violence against aid personnel.

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