Hundreds attend funeral of British aid worker killed in Gaza

Coffin bearers carry the casket into Truro Cathedral prior to the funeral service for Jim Henderson [Getty]

Around 700 people attended the funeral of a British aid worker on Wednesday who was killed in an Israeli airstrike two months ago. 

Cornwall’s James ‘Jim’ Henderson, 33, was among the seven aid workers killed during an Israeli air attack on a World Central Kitchen (WCK) convoy in southern Gaza’s Deir-al-Balah in April. 

The attack drew immediate global condemnation and  demands of accountability, with several Western allies of Israel saying it was a violation of international laws concerning armed conflict and the protection of humanitarian workers.   

Two other British aid workers, John Chapman and James Kirby were also killed in the drone attack, alongside Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, Australian Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, 43, Polish citizen Damian Soból, 35, and US-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33.

Family and friends paid tribute to Henderson, a Royal Marine turned humanitarian worker, at Truro Cathedral and he was laid to rest in his hometown of Falmouth . 

“He was the supreme athlete. He always had a plan or if he didn’t he made us feel like he did. When we played with him with the Penryn rugby club we felt safe, protected and powerful,” Harry James-Mills, Henderson’s former teammate for Penryn Rugby Football Club, said during the ceremony. 

Henderson’s siblings, Matt and Daniel, said their brother left a legacy behind, which was evident by how he connected “with so many people in so many different ways”. 

“Very selfless act where the average person wouldn’t want to put themselves in that danger and understandably so. For Jim, that wasn’t going to stop him or scare him off,” Daniel Henderson told radio station Hits Radio Cornwall

Going to Gaza

Ahead of the service, Henderson’s fiancee and immediate family issued a statement expressing their pride over James’ character and highlighting what inspired him to go to Gaza amidst Israel’s ongoing indiscriminate ongoing bombing campaign, which has completely devastated the enclave and killed at least 35,709 people.

“Through everything Jim did, at the heart of it was people…it was this drive that took him to Gaza in support of World Central Kitchen, and those so badly affected by the conflict in the region. Whilst we will never comprehend his loss, we know that he died doing something that mattered to him, he was making a difference and for that, at least, we are grateful.”

British MP for Truro and Falmouth Cherilyn Mackrory offered her condolences to Henderson’s family and lauded the humanitarian efforts of charities such as WCK in Gaza. 

Mackrory said that she has been reassured by the UK Foreign Office that it has fully supported the families affected by the loss of their loved ones, while continuing to push for full transparency from Israel in its investigation surrounding the deaths of all seven aid workers. 

Following an inquest by the Avon Coroner’s Court near Bristol in April, it was confirmed that the British aid workers died from blast injuries to their head, chest and limbs. 

The aid workers were part of a convoy moving over 100 tons of food aid from a warehouse to distribute to Palestinians suffering amidst growing threats of famine and malnutrition caused by Israel’s assault and siege of the enclave. 

They were confirmed to be working alongside other international staff for the charity WCK, which provides food relief to war-torn areas. 

The charity was forced to pause its operations in the Gaza Strip after multiple Israeli missiles struck the aid convoy in Deir al-Balah, despite coordinating its movements with the Israeli military and the car they were travelling in being clearly marked with the WCK logo. 

Human Rights Watch also said that Israeli authorities were notified beforehand with the convoys’ coordinates- adding that the military did not alert to any aid groups in advance prior to the attacks. 

WCK later resumed operations in the enclave in late April, but has consistently pushed for an independent investigation. 

Many people have called on the UK government to suspend its arms exports to Israel as anger erupted at the killing of the British aid workers. 

Experts and campaigners have additionally questioned if the Hermes 450 drone used in the attack was supplied by the UK.  

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