Mass death at Gaza aid delivery threatens truce talks

Palestinians surround aid trucks in northern Gaza in what officials described the day before as the first major delivery in a month.

Palestinians surround aid trucks in northern Gaza in what officials described the day before as the first major delivery in a month. Photo: AAP

Gaza health authorities say more than 100 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces as they waited for an aid delivery but Israel has challenged the death toll and says many of the victims were run over by aid trucks.

At least 104 people were killed and more than 280 wounded in the incident near Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said, and the death toll in nearly five months of war passed 30,000.

Medical teams said they were unable to cope with the volume and severity of the injuries, with dozens of wounded taken to the al-Shifa hospital, which is only partially operational after Israeli raids on the facility.

The incident caused the largest loss of civilian lives in weeks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was an “ugly massacre conducted by the Israeli occupation army on people who waited for aid trucks at the Nabulsi roundabout”.

Israel’s account

Israel disputed the account provided by health officials in Hamas-run Gaza, which has been bombarded by Israeli forces for months in the war that began after the Palestinian militant group’s deadly attack on southern Israel on October 7.

An Israeli military official said two separate incidents had occurred as the convoy of trucks passed into northern Gaza from the south along the main coastal road.

In the first incident, he said aid trucks were surrounded by hundreds of people and in the confusion, dozens were injured or killed, by being trampled or run over by the trucks.

As the trucks left, he said, a second incident occurred in which some of the people who rushed the convoy approached Israeli forces including a tank, which then opened fire.

“The soldiers fired warning shots in the air and then fired towards those who posed a threat and did not move away,” he told a news briefing.

“From our perspective, this is what we understand. We’re continuing to review the circumstances.”

He said he did not believe the death toll provided by the Palestinian authorities but provided no Israeli estimate, saying “it was a limited response”.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, dismissed the Israeli version of events.

He said the latest comments showed Israel “had pre-plotted intentions to carry out the new crime and massacre” and that the death toll could rise.

Threat to talks

Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has run the Gaza strip since 2007, said in a statement that the incident could jeopardise talks in Qatar aimed at securing a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in the enclave.

US President Joe Biden also acknowledged the potential effect of the incident on efforts to mediate a truce.

Asked whether he thought the incident would complicate matters, he said: “I know it will”.

Diplomats said the United Nations Security Council would meet behind closed doors to discuss developments in the Gaza Strip.

A White House National Security Council spokesperson said: “We mourn the loss of innocent life and recognise the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, where innocent Palestinians are just trying to feed their families.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a congressional hearing that more than 25,000 women and children had been killed by Israel in Gaza since October 7, and that it could and should do more to protect civilians.

In a post on X, UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said he was “appalled”, adding: “Even after close to five months of brutal hostilities, Gaza still has the ability to shock us.”

Much of Gaza rubble

The Palestinian health authorities said 30,035 Palestinians had been confirmed killed and more than 70,000 wounded in Israel’s offensive, launched after the October 7 attack in which Israel said Hamas gunmen killed 1200 people and abducted 253.

Much of Gaza has been reduced to rubble and the majority of its 2.3 million population displaced from their homes at least once.

Aid deliveries to northern Gaza have been rare and chaotic, passing through more active military zones to an area where the United Nations says many people are starving, with videos showing desperate crowds surging around supply trucks.

Gaza health authorities say 30,000 people have been confirmed killed in the enclave since then, with thousands of others believed buried under rubble.


Topics: Gaza
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