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3 Apr, 2024 13:53

‘She asked us to pray for her’ – family of World Central Kitchen volunteer killed in Israeli strike speaks to RT

Lalzawmi Frankcom, one of seven volunteers killed in Gaza on Monday, is being mourned by her family in India
‘She asked us to pray for her’ – family of World Central Kitchen volunteer killed in Israeli strike speaks to RT

Before venturing into Gaza as an aid worker, Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43, who was born to an Australian father and an Indian mother, said her purpose was to “provide relief and warm food” to those affected by the conflict in the Palestinian enclave, her family members have recalled. Lalzawmi’s mission, however, was cut short when she was killed on Monday along with six others when their convoy was struck by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The humanitarian convoy was hit as it was leaving Gaza’s Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of food aid, “despite coordinating movements with the IDF,” the World Central Kitchen said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that IDF forces “unintentionally hit innocent people” in a “tragic” incident. IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi has described the bombing of the convoy as a “grave mistake.”

A report in Haaretz suggests, however, that the attack was intentional as Israel had fired missiles on three separate occasions over suspicions that a Hamas operative was traveling with the group.

Speaking to RT, Lalzawmi’s family members in India’s northeastern state of Mizoram detailed the chain of events that led to her ill-fated mission in Gaza.

On April 1, Lalzawmi posted a message in her family’s chat group, sharing that her team had received the green light to go to Gaza and asked family members to pray for her as she was “a little nervous.” She also shared a selfie of herself donning a bulletproof vest and a helmet, which is believed to be her last picture.

Her family in India say they were shattered by the news of her death.

”Lalzawmi was the heartbeat of the family, always had a big smile on her face, and was always full of energy,” Lallawmawma (Awma), her cousin, told RT. “She was passionate about the work she did with the World Central Kitchen which she considered a family. She had a great sense of humor and could crack jokes at any time and saw the positives in everybody she met.”

Lalzawmi’s relatives recalled that she had always wanted to do two things ever since she was a young girl. “First, I want to help as many people as I can and second, I want to travel and see the world as much as I can,” she once said, according to her cousin. He also noted that during her last visit to Mizoram in 2023, Lalzawmi had expressed a desire to settle down in the tribal-dominated Indian state for her retirement. “All along, she stayed true to her roots in Mizoram,” Awma said.

Former World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook posted a photo of Lalzawmi on X (formerly Twitter), noting she was one of the earliest employees at the organization. Her journey with the NGO began in Guatemala after the Volcan de Fuego erupted in 2018, killing around 200 people.

On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had expressed Canberra’s “anger and concern” during a phone call with Netanyahu. “We have called for full transparency and accountability, and for aid to reach Gaza unimpeded and in large quantities,” Albanese asserted on X.

Some of Israel’s closest allies, including the United States, have condemned the deaths of the aid workers. Amid international outcry over the incident, celebrity chef and World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres has insisted that the seven volunteers were “the best of humanity.” “They are not faceless or nameless,” he told The New York Times. “They are not generic aid workers or collateral damage in war.”

Tel Aviv is facing growing scrutiny over its actions during the siege of Gaza, which it launched in retaliation for the Hamas strike in southern Israel on October 7. The Hamas-backed Health Ministry in Gaza on Monday said that the death toll from ongoing Israeli attacks on the enclave has risen to 32,845.

Meanwhile, the deaths of the aid workers has prompted multiple charities to suspend food deliveries to Palestinians, many of whom are believed to be starving.

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