Dozens killed in Gaza aid queue after Israel opens fire on civilians, as IDF says most victims run over by trucks

29 February 2024, 16:22 | Updated: 29 February 2024, 18:36

An image released by the IDF of the scene
An image released by the IDF of the scene. Picture: IDF

By Kit Heren

Over 100 people are thought to have been killed when Israeli soldiers opened fire on civilians near aid trucks in Gaza.

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The tragedy took place in the early hours of Thursday morning in the south-west of Gaza City, the capital of the territory.

The death toll of 112 people, which was provided by Gaza's Hamas-controlled health ministry, has not been confirmed by Israel. The health ministry said another 700 people had been injured.

Israel blamed the deaths and injuries on the aid trucks driven by Gazans running people over, and also said some people were trampled to death.

They said that they had fired at some people coming too close to a checkpoint, but not at anyone rushing the aid convoy. They claimed that fewer than ten people were killed by Israeli fire.

An IDF image of the scene
An IDF image of the scene. Picture: IDF

The catastrophe happened when a convoy of 30 aid trucks passed through an Israeli checkpoint at about 4am local time (2am UK time).

Palestinians, many of whom have struggled for food and medicines since the war began in October, began running towards the aid truck convoy, according to Israel.

IDF Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said that some civilians came close to the Israeli checkpoint, at which point soldiers fired some warning shots, the BBC reported.

Lt Col Lerner said that the soldiers feared for their safety and shot at them. He called this a "limited response".

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IDF image of the scene
IDF image of the scene. Picture: IDF

The shooting is said to have sparked panic, and the aid trucks tried to move forward. The trucks are believed to have run some people over.

The IDF said: "Early this morning, during the entry of humanitarian aid trucks into the northern Gaza Strip, Gazan residents surrounded the trucks, and looted the supplies being delivered. 

"During the incident, dozens of Gazans were injured as a result of pushing and trampling. The incident is under review."

IDF spokesperson Avi Hyman said later: "At some point the trucks were overwhelmed and the people driving the trucks, which were Gazan civilian drivers, ploughed into the crowds of people, ultimately killing, my understanding is, tens of people.

"It's obviously a tragedy but we're not sure of the specifics quite yet."

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A man being treated in hospital for a gunshot wound to the leg said that he was shot by the IDF after they fired at the crowd.

Another hospital said it had received ten bodies and was treating dozens of injured people.

Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, called the incident "an ugly massacre conducted by the Israeli occupation army".

The White House said it was investigating the incident.

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"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," a spokesperson said.

"This underscores the importance of expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, including through a potential temporary ceasefire."

Joe Biden said the incident would complicate ceasefire talks.