Gaza aid massacre: What we know after Israeli troops killed Palestinians waiting for food

UN calls for investigation after Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinians waiting for humanitarian supplies

Hundreds of Palestinians were injured when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds waiting for food aid. Reuters
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More than 112 Palestinians were killed and more than 700 injured when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds gathering around aid lorries in northern Gaza, the enclave's Health Ministry said.

Witnesses described to The National the moment soldiers fired into the crowds on Thursday. Countries including the UAE have strongly condemned the attack.

Nafez Taimeh, from the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, travelled to the area with three of his cousins shortly before the massacre.

“We have been suffering for many weeks, so we went to get flour and aid after hearing it was arriving from the south,” Mr Taimeh said.

The four of them waited for hours in front of Israeli military vehicles, including tanks.

“Soldiers watched us every minute. Finally, the aid entered and moved less than 100 metres beyond the Israeli checkpoint,” he said. “We approached in an attempt to secure the aid and food. However, the forces started firing at us directly.

“My cousin was shot in the leg and another bullet hit his stomach, while my other cousin was shot in the hand.”

His two injured cousins, along with hundreds of others wounded in the attack, were rushed to Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza city, where one remains in critical condition.

The US called Thursday's incident “tremendously alarming” and the UN said it needed to be investigated.

Israel's military initially said that people were crushed in a struggle to reach the aid. It later said soldiers opened fire on the crowds after feeling threatened.

Other Palestinian accounts suggest people were also run over by aid lorries, while other reports say Israeli tanks were involved in the attack.

It is the latest shocking incident in a conflict that has caused the deaths of more than 30,000 Palestinians, mostly due to Israeli air strikes.

Here's what we know about the Gaza aid deaths so far:

What happened at the aid convoy?

The incident occurred on Thursday afternoon as a convoy of 38 aid lorries was stopped at a crossroads at Al Nabulsi roundabout, south-west of Gaza city.

Thousands of Palestinians gathered near the convoy to receive bags of flour and canned food, with little aid having reached the north of the enclave in recent weeks. The UN this week warned that about a quarter of Gaza's population was at risk from famine.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees' aid deliveries to the enclave halved between January and February, leaving Gazans desperate for aid. Several western donors have suspended funding to UNRWA after Israel alleged that a small number of its workers were involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israeli settlements. The agency denies the allegations.

One witness, identified only as Saber, described the events on Thursday.

“As the vehicles moved forward, the youth entered to get the aid on top of the trucks, and then they were shot,” he told The National.

“The Israeli occupation knows we have no rockets, no planes, no equipment, and they see everything. How long will this silence last?

“We demand international protection to safeguard the Palestinian people. There's nothing,” he added.

Drone footage released by Israel after the shooting appeared to show thousands of people gathering at the lorries. Any gunfire into such a dense crowd would have been devastating.

Doctors who treated those injured in the massacre said some people had been shot in the head – reports supported by images from the aftermath.

Dr Hossam Abu Safia, director of Kamal Adwan Hospital, told The National: “There are many injuries, most of them to the upper body. There are fatal injuries to the head and chest, and there are also injuries to the legs.

“We tried to provide the necessary first aid, but Kamal Adwan Hospital does not have the capability to accommodate a large number of injuries due to the lack of diesel fuel to operate the generators.”

A UN team that visited some of the wounded in Al Shifa Hospital on Friday saw a “large number of gunshot wounds”, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The hospital received 70 of the dead and treated more than 700 wounded, of whom around 200 were still there during the team's visit, Mr Dujarric said.

“I'm not aware that our team examined the bodies of people who were killed. My understanding from what they saw in terms of the patients who were alive getting treatment is that there was a large number of gunshot wounds,” he said.

What does attack mean for future aid deliveries?

As well as investigations into the attack, there is likely to be a reassessment of how aid can be delivered safely in the besieged enclave.

The UN has called for an investigation, while rights group Amnesty International said it would launch its own probe. The Israeli military is also set to investigate.

There was hope the flow of aid into northern Gaza would improve and a convoy of about 40 lorries could carry several hundred tonnes of food and supplies.

But the massacre, as well as Israeli protests that have blocked aid at the main crossing from Israel into Gaza, will complicate an already nightmarish situation, with the UN warning that Gazans face the imminent threat of starvation.

Mazen Ghaben, from Beit Lahia North of the Gaza Strip, lost his son Haitham, 23, in the massacre.

“He has been my support in this life since the beginning of the war. He was always striving to bring food and drink to his mother, his siblings, and me,” Mazen told The National.

Haitham and his friends went to Al Nabulsi to get flour. “They weren't out to resist or anything. They're all simple people whose only concern was to feed their families.”

Aid driven across the border in Rafah, on the Egypt-Gaza frontier, has slowed to a trickle amid stringent Israeli inspections. About 100 lorries a day cross into the enclave there, but the World Food Programme has warned that between 200 and 500 lorries a day are required.

Additional reporting by Robert Tollast.

Updated: March 02, 2024, 8:24 AM