The three Britons who were killed in the Israeli air strike in Gaza were “extremely experienced” and “excellent operators”, according to the director of the security firm that employed them.

John Chapman, 57, James Kirby, 47, and James Henderson, 33, were among seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers killed in strikes by the Israel Defence Forces on Monday.

The trio were working for security firm Global Solace, which was supporting the charity in Gaza, when a convoy they were travelling in was hit.

Company director Matthew Harding told Sky News: “Our first thoughts are with the families and loved ones. I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing the three men myself, but the company is a very close-knit family unit and many people in the room that I’m standing in right now knew all three men very well.

“And, in fact, some of them served with them prior to leaving the military.

“Their character traits are probably best for others to comment on. But what I can tell you is they were extremely experienced, very professional and thoroughly excellent operators.

Israel-Hamas conflict
Undated handout photos issued by World Central Kitchen of (left to right) of John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby (World Central Kitchen/PA)

“As with many, I would like to wait for the proper outcome of the thorough investigation we’re being told is being conducted. What we do know is that the humanitarian mission had been successfully completed and the food had been delivered and unloaded.

“The crew were turning around in order to make their way back to go to the safety of the compound when the incident happened. And we very much look forward to understanding exactly what went wrong from the Israeli Defence Force when they get to the bottom of it.”

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

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the attack as ‘unintended’ and ‘tragic’ (Abir Sultan/AP)

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.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 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.”