Condemnation of Israel’s actions in Gaza grows after dozens die waiting for aid

1 March 2024, 18:14

Israel Palestinians
Israel Palestinians. Picture: PA

The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 110 people were killed and at least 750 wounded.

Turkey has joined Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan in condemning Israeli forces firing on Palestinians waiting for the delivery of aid, with its foreign ministry calling the event “yet another crime against humanity”.

Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a chaotic crush for the food aid in Gaza City, and that its troops fired only when they felt endangered by the crowd.

The head of a Gaza City hospital that treated some of those wounded in the bloodshed surrounding the aid convoy said on Friday that more than 80% had been struck by gunfire, suggesting there had been heavy shooting by Israeli troops.

At least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others were injured on Thursday, according to health officials, when witnesses said nearby Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy.

Israel Palestinians
An image from a video released by the Israeli army on Thursday showing Palestinians surrounding aid trucks in northern Gaza in what officials described the day before as the first major delivery in a month (IDF via AP)

Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a stampede linked to the chaos and that its troops fired at some in the crowd whom they believed moved towards them in a threatening way.

Dr Mohammed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda Hospital, told The Associated Press that 176 wounded were brought to the facility, of whom 142 had suffered gunshot wounds. The other 34 showed injuries from a stampede.

He could not address the cause of death of those killed, because the bodies were taken to government-run hospitals to be counted. Officials at the other hospitals could not immediately be reached concerning the dead and other wounded.

It brings the Palestinian death toll to more than 30,000 in the Gaza Strip since Israel’s war on Hamas began nearly five months ago after Hamas-led militants stormed across southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 others hostage.

Israel responded with a blistering offensive in the Gaza Strip that has created a humanitarian catastrophe and devastation in northern areas like Gaza City, which are largely cut off from the rest of the territory with little aid entering.

In a statement issued late on Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Israel of using “starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza”.

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians walk through the destruction from the Israeli offensive in Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip (AP Photo/Mahmoud Essa)

Earlier, US President Joe Biden said the US was still trying to determine what happened. Asked if the loss of life would complicate efforts broker a ceasefire, he said: “I know it will.”

Later on Friday, the European Union said it will pay 50 million euros (£42.7 million) to the main UN provider of aid in Gaza next week after the agency agreed to allow EU-appointed experts to audit the way it screens staff to identify extremists.

The UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees) agency is reeling from allegations that 12 of its 13,000 Gaza staff members participated in the October 7 Hamas attacks. The agency sacked the employees, but more than a dozen countries suspended funding worth about 450 million dollars (£356 million), almost half the budget for 2024.

The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, had been due to disburse 82 million euros (£70.4 million) to UNRWA on February 29 but wanted the agency to accept its terms for an audit. The commission is the third biggest donor to UNRWA after the United States and Germany.

Israel Palestinians
An Israeli armoured personnel carrier (APC) moves near the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

It said that the agency has now “indicated that it stands ready to ensure that a review of its staff is carried out to confirm they did not participate in the attacks and that further controls are put in place to mitigate such risks in the future”.

The commission said that two further tranches of funding worth 16 million euros (£13.7 million) each will be given to UNRWA as it complies with the agreement.

UNRWA is on the brink of financial collapse. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini welcomed the EU’s announcement and said that the commitment to provide money next week “comes at a critical time”.

By Press Association

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