GAZA - An Australian humanitarian aid worker is the first of seven killed in an apparent Israeli airstrike in Gaza to have been named, with three British citizens among the dead.

Zomi Frankcom, 43, was killed while working with the World Central Kitchen charity on Gaza’s coastal road in Deir Balah, central Gaza, on Monday night.

The bodies were taken to al-Aqsa hospital, some of them wearing protective gear with the logo of World Central Kitchen charity, The Independent understands.

World Central Kitchen, which was founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, said that among the dead were three British nationals, as well as Palestinian, Polish, and US-Canadian citizens. Gaza’s government media office identified one of the dead as a Palestinian driver from Gaza.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has said he is “shocked and saddened” by the death of a British aid worker in Gaza, saying “clearly there are questions that need to be answered”. Foreign secretary David Cameron has called on Israel to “immediately investigate”, adding that the government wanted “a full, transparent explanation of what happened”.

WCK said its convoy of three vehicles was hit despite the charity coordinating on its movements with the Israeli military, and the fact that two of the cars hit were clearly marked as aid vehicles. Photographs and videos from the scene show a four-wheel drive car clearly labelled “World Central Kitchen” with a huge hole in the roof and its interior destroyed.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war,” said Erin Gore, chief executive of World Central Kitchen. “This is unforgivable.”

Nate Mook, the former chief executive of WCK who first hired Ms Frankcom, described her as a “shining star” and “gift to the world” who had dedicated her life to helping people. “The news of her death, the killing of seven members of the World Central Kitchen is devastating for their families, friends and the world,” he told The Independent.

“It is unfathomable that they are not with us any more. They were all truly dedicated to their work, trying to do what they could in the most desperate and dangerous of situations.”

Ms Frankcom’s grieving family told The Guardian: “We are deeply mourning the news that our brave and beloved Zomi has been killed doing the work she loves, delivering food to the people of Gaza. She will leave behind a legacy of compassion, bravery and love for all those in her orbit.”

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese confirmed Ms Frankcom, who hails from Melbourne, was among those killed and said his government has requested an explanation from Israel. Poland and Spain also said on Tuesday that they were pressing Israeli counterparts for more information on how the strike came about – Andrés, the WCK founder, is a Spanish-American citizen.

A Palestinian aid worker in Deir Balah who knew the group of aid workers told The Independent they were returning from coordinating the distribution of 400 tonnes of food aid that arrived earlier that day via a new sea route from Cyprus to a pier that WCK had recently built. The aid worker asked not to be named for security reasons.

Security sources told left-leaning Israeli paper Haaretz, that Israeli military hit the convoy three times with a drone, as the aid workers tried to dive for cover between the vehicles. The security source said after the first missile hit, the passengers tried to move to another vehicle - and were attacked a second and a third time.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the allegations. Civilians in Deir al-Balah told The Independent there was a wave of airstrikes in the area on Monday evening hitting the coastal road, a main access point to North Gaza, and a mosque.

WCK’s founder Jose Andres said deaths were a “tragedy”.

“I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family,” Andrés wrote in a statement on X on Monday. “These are people…angels…I served alongside in Ukraine, Gaza, Turkey, Morocco, Bahamas, Indonesia.

“They are not faceless… they are not nameless. The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon. No more innocent lives lost. Peace starts with our shared humanity. It needs to start now.”

The Independent interviewed Ms Frankcom just three weeks before she was killed, from a Jordanian military base where she was coordinating the delivery of humanitarian aid via airdrops.

“There are few ways [to aid into Gaza] so let us take all of them, let’s take every opportunity we can to get meals into Gaza,” she said, adding that they had served more than 30 million meals.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu lamented the killings, saying it was “unintended”.

“This happens in wartime. We are thoroughly looking into it, are in contact with the governments (of the foreigners among the dead) and will do everything to ensure it does not happen again,” he said in a video message.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s top spokesperson, said officials were reviewing the incident at the highest level. He said an independent investigation would be launched that “will help us reduce the risk of such an event from occurring again”.

This is not the first time Israel has been accused of bombing humanitarian aid convoys and distribution centres. The United Nations’ Palestinian Refugee Agency told The Independent a tank shell hit one of its aid convoys in February along the same coastal road also in Deir al-Balah where WCK was attacked.

The UN agency said that a supply distribution centre was also hit in March, and convoys had come under Israeli fire in December.

Alicia Kearns, a Conservative MP and the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that there was still no explanation for the January bombing of the Medical Aid for Palestine complex in a declared safe zone which had also been deconflicted directly with the Israeli military.

Four British doctors who were there at the time only just survived. She called for a “thorough and swift investigation” into what happened on Monday.

“And also [into] what impact it will have on the ability of the maritime corridor to function given it is World Central Kitchen who were receiving and distributing the desperately needed aid,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Humanitarian agencies must be given the assurances they need that their people will be protected.”

Francesca Albanese, a United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, called for sanctions on Israel.

“On the day Israel bombed a foreign embassy in a third country, it also killed WCK humanitarian workers. Israel is crossing every possible red line, still with full impunity. Sanctions now. Indictments now.”

The alleged strike came hours after Israeli troops ended a devastating two-week raid on Gaza’s largest hospital - al Shifa - leaving the facility a torched, gutted shell, and a swath of destruction in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Footage showed Shifa’s main buildings had been reduced to a charred mess, with what looked like flattened bodies and body parts smashed in the ground, which had been chewed up by bulldozers.

Israel claimed it launched the raid on Shifa because senior Hamas operatives had regrouped there and were planning attacks. After the troops withdrew, hundreds of Palestinians returned to search for lost loved ones or examine the damage - with Palestinian journalists reporting people had been killed by Israeli soldiers.

Among the dead were Ahmed Maqadma and his mother — both doctors at Shifa — and his cousin, said Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta, a Palestinian-British doctor who volunteered at Shifa and other hospitals during the first months of the war before returning to Britain.

The fate of the three had been unknown since they talked by phone with family as they tried to leave Shifa nearly a week ago and the line suddenly went dead. On Monday, relatives found their bodies with gunshot wounds about a block from the hospital, said Abu Sitta, who is in touch with the family.