Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Dozens of Gazans waiting for food aid killed by Israeli fire

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed and some 700 others wounded after Israeli soldiers opened fire on hundreds waiting for food aid southwest of the Gaza City, health officials say, as the besieged enclave faces an unprecedented hunger crisis.

The Gaza Ministry of Health said on Thursday said over 100 people were killed and more than 750 wounded, with the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemning what it said was a cold-blooded “massacre”.

The ministry said the attack was part of Israel’s ongoing “genocidal war”, calling on the international community to “urgently intervene” to forge a ceasefire as “the only way to protect civilians”.

People had congregated at al-Rashid Street, where aid trucks carrying flour were believed to be on the way. Footage showed the bodies of dozens of killed and wounded Palestinians being carried onto trucks as no ambulances could reach the area.

Al Jazeera reported that after opening fire, Israeli tanks advanced and ran over many of the dead and injured bodies.

“The numbers will rise. Hospitals are no longer able to accommodate the huge number of patients because they lack fuel, let alone medicine. Hospitals have also run out of blood,” Al Jazeera’s Ismail al-Ghoul stated, reporting from the scene.

Reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith stated the Israeli military “initially tried to pin the blame on the crowd” saying that dozens were hurt as a consequence of being crushed and trampled when aid trucks arrived.

“And then, after some pushing the Israelis went on to say that their troops felt threatened, that hundreds of troops approached their troops in a way they posed a threat to them so they responded by opening fire,” Smith added.

One Palestinian man told Quds News Network the military attack was a “crime”.

“I have been waiting since yesterday. At about 4:30 this morning, trucks started to come through. Once we approached the aid trucks, the Israeli tanks and warplanes started firing at us, as if it was a trap,” he said.

“To the Arab states I say, if you want to have us killed, why are you sending relief aid? If this continues, we do not want any aid delivered at all. Every convoy coming means another massacre,” he added.

Jadallah al-Shafei, the head of the nurses’ department at al-Shifa Hospital, said that “the situation is beyond any words”, adding that “the hospital was flooded with dozens of dead bodies and hundreds of injured”.

“The majority of the victims suffered gunshots and shrapnel in the head and upper parts of their bodies. They were hit by direct artillery shelling, drone missiles and gun firing,” he told Al Jazeera.

The mass shooting was the latest instance of systematic attacks on hungry people waiting for scraps of food. Over the past few days, Palestinians gathered in large groups waiting for aid trucks on Salah al-Din Street near Gaza City have been shot at by Israeli forces, said Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Rafah in the enclave’s south.

Recently, a truck that was supposed to deliver aid to people in Gaza tragically turned into the truck carrying those injured and killed, he added.

With aid agencies unable to deliver supplies to northern Gaza since January 23, many are taking a long trek towards the south by foot.

On Wednesday, Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), told the United Nations Security Council more than 500,000, or one in four people, were at risk of famine, with one in every six children below the age of two considered acutely malnourished.

“The risk of famine is being fuelled by the inability to bring critical food supplies into Gaza in sufficient quantities, and the almost impossible operating conditions faced by our staff on the ground,” he said.

He described dangerous conditions for WFP trucks trying to get food to the north earlier this month.

“There were delays at checkpoints; they faced gunfire and other violence; food was looted along the way; and at their destination, they were overwhelmed by desperately hungry people,” added Skau.

Aid agencies claim that Israel has been delaying deliveries. Israel denies that charge. It submitted a report to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the measures taken to avert suffering in the besieged enclave. Rights groups say Israel acted in breach of the ICJ order issued in January.

Israel launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip following a Hamas-led attack on October 7. More than 30,000 people are reported to have been killed to date, mostly women and children.

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