Israeli military promises thorough investigation into aid convoy deaths

FILE PHOTO: Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari points at what he says is a guard roster in a room the military suspects was used by Hamas to hold hostages in the basement of Rantissi Hospital

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Israeli military on Saturday promised an exhaustive and truthful investigation into the deaths of Palestinians queuing for aid in Gaza this week, an incident that has drawn condemnations and calls for an international inquiry.

Gaza Health authorities said 118 people were killed in Thursday's incident, attributing the deaths to Israeli fire and calling it a massacre.

Israel disputed those figures and said most victims were trampled or run over as crowds swarmed aid trucks. An Israeli official also said troops had "in a limited response" later fired on crowds they felt had posed a threat.

"We are investigating this incident, we have all the documentation that we need in order to carry out an exhaustive, truthful investigation into the facts of this incident and we will present our findings," spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters in Tel Aviv.

"It was a humanitarian operation we were running and the claim that we deliberately attacked the convoy and deliberately harmed people is completely baseless," Hagari said. He added that it was the fourth such operation in that area.

Although the accounts of what happened differed sharply, the incident has underscored the collapse of orderly aid deliveries in areas of Gaza occupied by Israeli forces, with no administration in place and the main U.N. agency UNRWA hamstrung by an inquiry into alleged links with Hamas.

With a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza, many countries have urged a ceasefire, but U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday's incident will complicate talks at which a deal involving a truce and hostage release is being sought.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell, Editing by Timothy Heritage)