The family of one of the British aid workers killed in the Israeli air strike in Gaza have paid tribute to him as a “hero”.

James Kirby, a military veteran who is believed to be a former member of Britain’s special forces, was among seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers killed in strikes by the Israel Defense Forces on Monday.

The 47-year-old former Army sniper marksman worked in the charity’s security team and died alongside fellow British military veterans John Chapman, 57, and James “Jim” Henderson, 33.

In a statement to the BBC, Mr Kirby’s family said: “Alongside the other six individuals who tragically lost their lives, he will be remembered as a hero.

“James understood the dangers of venturing into Gaza, drawing from his experiences in the British armed forces, where he bravely served tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

“Despite the risks, his compassionate nature drove him to offer assistance to those in dire need.

“A genuine gentleman, James was always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone, even in the face of senseless violence.

“James lost his life trying to save others, he will never know what a void he has left, our family will never be the same.”

They added they are “incredibly proud of who James was and what he achieved”.

Britons John Chapman, James “Jim” Henderson and James Kirby (World Central Kitchen/PA)
Britons John Chapman, James “Jim” Henderson and James Kirby (World Central Kitchen/PA)

The team’s leader, Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, 43, an Australian national, also died, along with American-Canadian dual citizen Jacob Flickinger, 33, Polish national Damian Sobol, 35, and Palestinian Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25.

The convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid taken to Gaza on the maritime route, the charity said.

WCK immediately suspended operations in the region.

The attack has drawn international condemnation of what Israel called an “unintended strike”, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak telling his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu he was appalled by the killings and demanding a thorough and transparent independent investigation.

Speaking to the Sun newspaper’s Never Mind the Ballots show, Mr Sunak described the aid workers’ deaths as “an awful, awful tragedy”.

“To think that these were brave Brits who were actually risking their lives to bring aid to people in need in Gaza. To have lost their lives in these circumstances is a tragedy,” he added.

On Wednesday, Lord David Cameron described the killings as “dreadful” and said “we should mourn the loss of these brave humanitarian workers”.

As he arrived at a Nato meeting in Brussels, the Foreign Secretary told broadcasters: “The dreadful events of the last two days are a moment when we should mourn the loss of these brave humanitarian workers, including the three British citizens that tragically were killed.

“We should also send our condolences to their families and our thoughts should be with them.”

Mr Netanyahu described the attack as unintended and “tragic” and pledged an independent inquiry.

“Unfortunately in the past day, there was a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed non-combatants in the Gaza Strip,” Mr Netanyahu said in a video statement on Tuesday.

“This happens in war. We are conducting a thorough inquiry and are in contact with the governments. We will do everything to prevent a recurrence.”

On Wednesday, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called on the Government to suspend arms sales to Israel, adding: “The thought that British-made arms could have been used in strikes such as these is completely unacceptable.”

Lord Peter Ricketts, a former senior diplomat who chaired the Joint Intelligence Committee during the Blair government, also suggested on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the UK should send a “powerful message” by halting arms sales to Israel.