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The Israeli army fires on a crowd collecting food, leaving more than 100 dead and 700 wounded in Gaza

The Israeli government calls what happened a ‘tragedy’ and points to a stampede and hit-and-runs by Gazan drivers, while the Palestinian Authority speaks of an ‘atrocious massacre’

Guerra entre Israel y Gaza
Dozens of people (the black dots) in the vicinity of a convoy of food trucks in Gaza City, with Israeli military vehicles alongside them, on Thursday.Fuerza de Defensa Israelí (Getty)
Luis de Vega

Israel’s military acknowledges that it fired on a crowd of people trying to get food from a convoy of trucks in Gaza on Thursday morning. Over 104 people were killed and more than 700 were injured in the incident, according to sources at the Ministry of Health in Gaza, under the control of Hamas. The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has denounced the use of tanks and artillery fire by Israeli occupation troops in an “atrocious massacre,” according to official sources. For its part, the Israeli army claims that “dozens” were killed or wounded by pushing, stomping and being run over by the convoy’s vehicles, although it also says that its soldiers opened fire when they felt they were in danger. The Israeli government has called what happened a “tragedy.” The incident took place on the same day that the official death toll in the Gaza Strip reached 30,000 and the wounded climbed to 70,000 since the war began on October 7, according to local health sources

The events occurred early in the morning on Rachid Street, which runs parallel to the beach in the southern part of Gaza City. In a video shot from there, hundreds of people can be seen before dawn trying to get help amid the chaos, as gunfire can be heard and bullets can be seen tracing their trajectory in the sky, according to images broadcast by Qatar’s Al Jazeera network. Many citizens are running or walking hurriedly and carrying sacks as some flames are seen on the ground. One woman, who claims to have lost her husband in the war, shouts in despair that there is no flour left as she tries to locate her daughter in the melee. With the light of day, the images of the dead and wounded at the scene have continued to spread on social media amid the outrage and grief of those present. Some of the corpses were carried on donkey carts, while bloodied boxes of humanitarian aid lay on the ground.

The Israeli military has released black and white footage recorded from the air by a drone to support its version. Hundreds of people can be seen surrounding the trucks and running from one side to the other. Moreover, the attack occurred at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to end the famine affecting the population of Gaza, especially those who remain in the north, as in this case. That is the area farthest from Rafah, on the border with Egypt, where the scarce flow of humanitarian aid enters the Gaza Strip.

The PNA continues to describe Israeli actions in Gaza as “genocide” and condemned “the atrocious massacre” committed “against civilians who were risking their lives to obtain a small amount of food,” according to a presidential statement published by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. The PNA insists that “Israel be held accountable for committing these horrible crimes before an international tribunal.”

Hamas, for its part, indicated that the attack could jeopardize the current talks for a ceasefire and an exchange of hostages, like the one that was achieved at the end of November, according to a statement quoted by Reuters. Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden assumes that what happened will prevent the announcement of an agreement in the coming days, something he had considered close on Wednesday.

According to the Israeli version, “early this [Thursday] morning, during the entry of humanitarian aid vehicles into the northern Gaza Strip, Gaza residents surrounded the trucks and looted the supplies being delivered. During the incident, dozens of Gazans were injured as a result of pushing and stomping,” a statement said. “Several people surrounding the humanitarian aid trucks approached Israeli army troops [who were in the area] to secure passage of the trucks as part of a humanitarian operation to transfer aid. The crowd approached the forces in such a way that it posed a threat to the troops, who responded to the threat with live fire,” these military sources added. The Armed Forces noted on X (formerly Twitter) that there were also hit-and-runs by the trucks, resulting in “dozens” of dead and wounded.

“At some point the trucks were overwhelmed and the people driving the trucks, who were civilian drivers from Gaza, rammed into the crowd of people and, as I understand it, ended up killing dozens of people,” government spokesman Avi Hyman told reporters, Reuters reports. “Obviously, it is a tragedy, but we are not sure of the details yet,” he added.

Beyond Biden’s initial reaction, for the United States, it represents a “serious incident” in the midst of the “grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, where innocent Palestinians are only trying to feed their families,” according to a White House statement that notes the need to increase the flow of aid into the Gaza Strip “even through a temporary ceasefire.”

Some in the Israeli government have applauded the killing. The military “acted excellently against a Gaza mob that tried to harm them,” said Israel’s ultra-conservative National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir. He called for preventing any aid — which he refers to as “oxygen for Hamas” — as long as hostages remain captive.

Palestinians transport casualties following what Palestinian health officials said was Israeli fire on people waiting for aid, in Gaza City, in this still picture taken from a video February 29, 2024
Palestinians carry the wounded following Israeli gunfire on people waiting for help in Gaza City, in an image taken from a video on February 29, 2024. REUTERS

Israel denies the blockade of aid

Israel’s government continues to deny the reality of the lack of arrival of food, water and the basics for the local population to survive. “There is no limit to the amount of humanitarian aid that can enter Gaza,” Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said on Thursday on his X (formerly Twitter) account next to a photo of humanitarian aid being parachuted in. Levy thus attempted to deny the undisputable blockade that his country is imposing and that is denounced daily within and outside the Gaza Strip. “States that want more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza should simply send it. Israel has just successfully facilitated the airdrop of food and medical equipment in cooperation with [the United Arab] Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, France and the United States,” he added.

Some countries have resorted to airdropping food and basic supplies as a way of coping with Israel’s punishing blockade of a population of around 2.3 million. Dozens of parachutes filled the sky over the Strip, dropped from a Jordanian military plane on Tuesday, while thousands of people followed their trajectory from the ground to run to the landing point and get their hands on the contents of the packages as soon as possible. Some of them were even picked up at sea.

Before October 7, Israeli authorities allowed the entry of 500 trucks a day into Gaza, when the territory was not being hit by bombing, famine and the lack of electricity, gas and telephone service. Now, with the markets out of supplies, the fields without crops and most of those 2.3 million people displaced from their homes, a much larger number of trucks are needed, the UN and humanitarian organizations say.

Palestinians transport casualties following what Palestinian health officials said was Israeli fire on people waiting for aid, in Gaza City, in this still picture taken from a video February 29, 2024
Palestinians transport casualties following what Palestinian health officials said was Israeli fire on people waiting for aid, in Gaza City.REUTERS

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