112 killed in Gaza food aid carnage; Israel blames trampling, truck drivers: Live updates

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More than 100 Palestinians were killed and 700-plus were injured when Israeli troops opened fire on people waiting for food in Gaza City, pushing the Palestinian death toll above 30,000 since the war began, the Gaza Health Ministry and Hamas said Thursday.

Israeli authorities released aerial footage of crowds swarming arriving aid trucks, placed blame on the crush of the crowd and Palestinian truck drivers and said fewer than 10 of the casualties were a result of Israeli gunfire.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military's chief spokesperson, said troops only fired warning shots to disperse the huge, threatening crowds.

"We didn’t open fire on those seeking aid,'' Hagari said. "Contrary to the accusations, we didn’t open fire on a humanitarian aid convoy, not from the air and not from land.''

Dr. Mohammed Salha, acting director of the Al-Awda Hospital, said most of the 161 wounded patients the facility received appeared to have been shot.

Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said at least 112 people were killed and 760 wounded. Hamas issued a statement saying Israeli forces, "indifferent to the consequences of its terrorist actions due to the cover and complicity of the administration of US President Biden," targeted a gathering of thousands of citizens awaiting food aid in Gaza City, where the United Nations has warned of an unprecedented hunger crisis amid the Israeli siege.

Gaza resident Kamel Abu Nahel was hospitalized with a gunshot wound. He told the Associated Press he was shot in the leg by Israeli soldiers who opened fire on crowds that had gathered at the distribution point in the middle of the night. “We’ve been eating animal feed for two months,” he said.

The Israeli military issued a statement saying that "during the early morning delivery of humanitarian aid trucks to the northern Gaza Strip, a violent gathering of Gazan residents developed around the trucks, who looted the equipment." The statement said dozens of Gazans were wounded as a result of "overcrowding, crowding and trampling."

The military said about 30 aid trucks rolled up to a checkpoint in Gaza City, setting off a deadly stampede. The initial investigation found that some of the trucks rolled north to the Rimal neighborhood, where the military said armed men opened fire and looted the convoy. Soldiers fired warning shots in the air, then shot at the legs of looters who pressed on, the military said.

Israeli government spokesperson Avi Hyman told Al-Jazeera the trucks were overwhelmed and the civilian Palestinian drivers ploughed into the crowds, killing dozens. In January, witnesses and Gaza health officials said Israeli troops fired on an aid distribution site in Gaza City, killing at least 20.

The Palestinian Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned the latest "massacre" and called for an immediate cease-fire to protect civilians.

Palestinians receive medical care at Kamal Edwan Hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Feb. 29, 2024.
Palestinians receive medical care at Kamal Edwan Hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on Feb. 29, 2024.


∎ Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant toured northern Gaza and said his military is preparing for an assault on the southern city of Rafah. Hamas is "getting weaker with each passing day, we are getting stronger. We will go and tighten the rope around the neck of Hamas until we eliminate it,” he said.

∎ The Palestinian Authority has received the equivalent of $114 million in tax revenue Israel had collected and then frozen, Reuters reported citing the Norwegian government, which helped arrange the transfer.

∎ Hagari said Thursday that Israeli forces have killed "more than 13,000 (Hamas) terrorists” since the beginning of the war, a much higher number than the 10,000 Israel has recently claimed. The figures have not been independently verified.

∎ The U.N. says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians could face starvation and that 80% have been forced to flee their homes.

∎ Babies in crowded Emirates Hospital in Rafah are forced to share incubators, leading to the spread of disease, hospital officials said.

Biden: Tragedy will complicate cease-fire talks

President Joe Biden, asked by reporters whether the tragedy in Gaza City would hamper talks aimed at a cease-fire and release of hostages, said, "I know it will." Biden, who said this week a deal could be reached by Monday, acknowledged that time frame has changed.

"Probably not by Monday but I’m hopeful,” he said.

Biden also said his team is trying to ascertain what took place at the aid site. "There’s two competing versions of what happened,'' he said. "I don’t have an answer yet.''

Administration officials said they have been in contact with the Israeli government, and White House principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters: “The events in northern Gaza are tremendously alarming and of deep concern to us. Too many civilian lives have been lost as a consequence of military operations in Gaza. We think that this latest event needs to be thoroughly investigated.”

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan accused Israel of targeting civilians and called for increased safe passages for humanitarian aid.

Hamas warned in a statement that the incident could jeopardize the talks.

"The negotiations conducted by the movement's leadership are not an open process at the expense of the blood of our people," the statement said, adding that Israel would be responsible if the talks fail.

Cease-fire negotiations hit a 'brick wall'

Even before the incident in Gaza City, the cease-fire negotiations in Qatar were running into major stumbling blocks. The Israeli delegation returned home from the talks Thursday, Israel's KAN News network reported.

The biggest obstacle was not the exchange of hostages for prisoners, KAN said, but rather the conditions for the return of Palestinians to devastated northern Gaza.

In a Thursday news conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again assailed Hamas' terms in negotiations, saying the militant group is making no effort to compromise. "We are running into a brick wall of delusional, unrealistic Hamas demands,” he said.

Both sides have committed war crimes, UN official says

The U.N.'s head of humanitarian rights said Thursday that both sides in the Israel-Hamas conflict have committed war crimes, and he called the growing number of casualties in Gaza "carnage.''

Speaking to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Volker Turk also joined the international chorus of officials urging Israel not to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering.

As it is, "Clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including war crimes and possibly other crimes under international law, have been committed by all parties," Turk said.

He pointed out more than 30,000 people have died in the Israeli offensive in Gaza that followed the savage Hamas attacks of Oct. 7, tens of thousands are missing and at least 17,000 children have been orphaned or separated from their families.

"There appear to be no bounds to, no words to capture, the horrors that are unfolding before our eyes in Gaza,'' Turk said. He added that an Israeli incursion into Gaza would only exacerbate the suffering and "sign a death warrant for any hope of effective humanitarian aid."

Israeli security chief backs troops after deadly clash

Israel's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir voiced support for Israeli troops after the Gaza City calamity, saying they acted "excellently against a Gazan mob that tried to harm them." He said the chaos proved the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza is "madness" while militants are still holding Israeli hostages in Gaza under substandard conditions.

"This is another clear reason why we must stop transferring this aid, which is in fact aid to harm the (Israeli) soldiers and oxygen to Hamas,' he said.

Palestinian death toll surpasses 30,000; 70,000 wounded

The Palestinian death toll since the war began has climbed to 30,035, and another 70,457 have been wounded, the Gaza Health Ministry reported Thursday. The ministry, controlled by the Hamas-run government, counts combatants and civilians and says women and children make up two-thirds of the deaths. The ministry's counts from previous wars have generally matched the tallies of the U.N., independent experts and Israel.

Israel recently said it had killed more than 10,000 Hamas militants, blaming any civilian deaths on Hamas using civilians as human shields. Hamas has said about 6,000 of its fighters have been killed. The Israeli assault on Gaza was prompted by the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israeli border communities that killed an estimated 1,200 people, with another 250 taken hostage.

Hamas, Fatah leaders to meet in Moscow

Representatives from Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian political factions were scheduled to gather in Moscow to discuss the formation of a unified Palestinian government for Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas has mostly controlled Gaza while Fatah has been the primary faction of the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of in the West Bank.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh announced the resignation of his government this week in a concession aimed at building broader consensus. Still, Minister for Foreign Affairs Riad Malki said he did not expect “miracles” from the meeting.

“We hope that there might be good results in terms of mutual understanding between all factions about the need to support such a technocratic government that will emerge,” Malki said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel Hamas war live updates: 112 killed waiting for food in Gaza