Soon after learning of his friend’s death, Josh Phelps saw the gruesome images of an Israeli attack that World Central Kitchen said killed his friend and six others delivering aid in Gaza.

“It was shocking,” said Phelps, a former WCK colleague of Australian aid worker Lalzawmi Frankcom.

He had just texted Frankcom – known as Zomi – the day before, when photos of the pair delivering food to a Native American reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D., popped up on his phone.

He sent them to her, and she responded with a heart. Hours later, she was dead.

Israel Palestinians

People inspect the site where World Central Kitchen workers were killed in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. Abdel Kareem Hana/Associated Press

Frankcom, 43, was among seven WCK workers who the nonprofit said were killed in an Israeli strike in Gaza on Monday. The attack on the organization founded by celebrity chef José Andrés drew international rebuke. It has pushed WCK and at least one other group to pause aid operations as famine looms over besieged Gaza and pressure mounts on Israel over the rising Palestinian civilian death toll.

The others killed were a U.S.-Canadian dual national, three U.K. citizens, a Palestinian and a Polish national, according to WCK.


The organization said the team was traveling in the Palestinian enclave in vehicles that included two armored cars branded with the World Central Kitchen logo, and that it had coordinated its movement with the Israeli military.

In an apparent reference to the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli forces “unintentionally hit innocent people” and that Israel would fully investigate the “tragic incident.”

Zomi Frankcom of Australia, right, one of the seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Monday, poses for a picture with Mikolaj Rykowski, president of the Free Place Foundation in an undated photo. Free Place Foundation’s Facebook via AP

Phelps, who left WCK in 2021, remembered Frankcom as a person who could make lifelong friends in the direst situation. “You knew when Zomi was in the room,” he said. “She loved to laugh, loved to have a good time.”

The two met in 2018 after a volcano eruption in Guatemala, as Frankcom was traveling in Central America and taking classes online after leaving a job at an Australian bank. She began helping to provide food aid with WCK. Her work took her around the world, including Paradise, Calif.; Egypt and Turkey. “She just bonded with every community she worked in,” Phelps said.

The last mission they did together was in Haiti in 2021. “She was riding around delivering food on the back of motorcycles,” Phelps recalled. “Her sense of responsibility to the people we serve and to go the extra mile was really special – and also to keep a great attitude.”

That attitude took her to Gaza. When Phelps messaged on WhatsApp to ask how she was feeling, she wrote back: “I’m getting used to the drones but the booms still make my tummy go funny.”


Her death shook people she had met around the world, Phelps said. “She had a zest for life, a heart for service,” he added. “People will remember her.”

Australian officials condemned the strike and said they had contacted Israeli authorities and called for an investigation. “We expect full accountability for these deaths,” the Australian Foreign Ministry said.

The director of al-Najjar hospital in Gaza, Marwan al-Hams, said the facility received the bodies of the seven workers – six with “Western nationalities” and one Palestinian, whom he identified as Seif Issam Abu Taha.

Yousef Sharef said Abu Taha, 26, was a cousin working with the WCK team in Gaza whose death was a “big loss” to the family and a shock. “He was a friendly, lovely person, and he used to always do good things and to support people who need help,” Sharef said.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the British government was “urgently working” to verify reports that its nationals were killed and would provide support to their families. He described the attack as “deeply distressing” and called on Israel to “provide a full, transparent explanation of what happened.”

Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that a Polish national was killed, extending its “deepest condolences to the family of the volunteer who was providing aid to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.” The ministry said it objected to the “disregard for international humanitarian law.”


Damian Sobol of Poland, left, one of the seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Monday, poses for a selfie with Marta Wilczynska, head of the Free Place Foundation. Free Place Foundation’s Facebook via AP

The mayor of the Polish city of Przemyśl identified the victim as Damian Soból, a 35-year-old aid volunteer who the mayor said was killed in the Israeli strike in Gaza.

“There are no words to describe the feelings of people who knew this amazing young man right now,” wrote Mayor Wojciech Bakun.

Aparna Branz, a former WCK volunteer, said she got to know Soból while volunteering in Poland and Ukraine in 2022, describing him as “always smiling, kind, patient and ready to help anyone anytime.”

“He was one of the bright lights in those horrible months,” Branz said. She also remembered him as a devoted son who was often speaking on the phone with his mother.

The two met again working in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake in Morocco. Branz recalled that Soból was busy getting ready to leave for Rafah at the time, but still, “typical to Damian, he helped me navigate the logistics of transportation, of where to go and where to stay.”

During their work together in the early days of the war in Ukraine, “we didn’t talk about our reason for being there,” she said. “We just wanted to help.”


Frances Vinall and Heba Mahfouz contributed to this report.

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