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A Palestinian mourns the victims at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, on Feb. 29, 2024. Alamy Stock Photo
The world reacts

Global condemnation after over 100 people were killed scrambling for food delivery in Gaza

Israeli officials have repeatedly denied that Israeli soldiers opened fire on the crowd.

ISRAEL HAS BEEN widely condemned after its soldiers reportedly opened fire on a crowd of civilians who were desperately trying to access food in Gaza. Over 100 people were killed in what the region’s health ministry called a “massacre”. 

More than 750 people were also injured in the attack, the Gaza health ministry said. 

Israeli officials have denied that their soldiers opened fire on the crowd, blaming the deaths on a stampede and saying warning shots had been fired. 

Witness accounts of the killings contradict those denials and political leaders around the world have directly condemned the attack on civilians seeking food in a warzone where people have begun to die from starvation. 

Video footage showed chaotic scenes and gunfire ringing out as people ran for cover. 

The NGO EuroMed Monitor has said that their initial investigations “confirm that Israeli army gunfire killed and wounded dozens of starving Palestinian civilians”.  

An Israeli source told the AFP news agency that troops had opened fire on the crowd, believing it “posed a threat”.

Kamel Abu Nahel, who was being treated for a gunshot wound at Shifa Hospital, said he and others went to the distribution point in south west Gaza City in the middle of the night because they heard there would be a delivery of food. “We’ve been eating animal feed for two months,” he added.

He said Israeli troops opened fire on the crowd, causing it to scatter, with some people hiding under cars.

After the shooting stopped, they went back to the trucks and the soldiers opened fire again. He was shot in the leg and fell over and then a truck ran over his leg as it sped off, he said. 

Other eye witnesses gave Al Jazeera similar accounts

palestinians-wounded-in-an-israeli-strike-while-waiting-for-humanitarian-aid-on-the-beach-in-gaza-city-are-treated-in-shifa-hospital-on-thursday-feb-29-2024-ap-photomahmoud-essa People wounded after the shooting at the aid convoy in Gaza city Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have been accused of a litany of crimes since the conflict began in October, including attacking hospitals and abusing detainees, but this incident has attracted particular outrage and condemnation from governments around the world.

Today, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign affairs ministry condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “disregard for the Nablusi massacre”.

Israeli security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said yesterday that “total support must be given to our heroic fighters”, who he said “acted excellently against a Gazan mob that tried to harm them”. 

He said that delivering aid to Gaza was “madness” that must be stopped. 

The world reacts

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has said today that he is “appalled by the horrible deaths of Palestinians queueing for aid in Gaza city”.

He added that “International humanitarian law is unambiguous – Israel as occupying power must protect civilians & ensure basic services. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is man made and completely unacceptable”. 

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “deep indignation” at seeing images of Israeli soldiers firing on civilians in Gaza. 

“I express my strongest condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice, and respect for international law,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter. 

The French foreign minister has also called for the incident to be investigated. 

Today Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said: “We will ask for explanations, and there will have to be an independent probe to determine what happened.”

France would not apply “double standards” to the conflict, Sejourne said, adding: “France calls things by their name”.

“This applies when we designate Hamas as a terrorist group, but we must also call things by their name when there are atrocities in Gaza.”

European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, who has become an increasingly vocal critic of Israel in recent weeks, denounced the deaths as “totally unacceptable”.

“I am horrified by news of yet another carnage among civilians in Gaza desperate for humanitarian aid,” he said on X. 

EU Council President Charles Michel said he was “shocked and repulsed by yesterday’s killing of innocent civilians in Gaza” while Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said she was “deeply disturbed by the images in Gaza”.

Both von der Leyen and Michel called for an investigation into yesterday’s events. 

US President Joe Biden said the incident would complicate delicate ceasefire negotiations in the almost five-month-old conflict, with the White House calling the deaths “tremendously alarming”.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the United States was “urgently seeking additional information on exactly what took place”.

Washington will be monitoring an upcoming investigation closely and “pressing for answers”, he said.

Turkey accused Israel of committing “another crime against humanity” and condemning Gazans to “famine” as civilians grow increasingly desperate for dwindling supplies of food.

“The fact that Israel… this time targets innocent civilians in a queue for humanitarian aid, is evidence that (Israel) aims consciously and collectively to destroy the Palestinian people”, the Turkish foreign ministry said.

The head of Libya’s Presidential Council, Mohamed el-Manfi, appealed for “an urgent investigation” by the United Nations Security Council into the “unprecedented crime”.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza and urged Israel to protect the Palestinian population after the “tragic deaths”.

“We strongly urge Israel to protect the people in Gaza and to rigorously ascertain facts and responsibilities,” he said on X.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her “deep dismay and concern” over the violence.

gaza-29th-feb-2024-people-comfort-each-other-as-they-mourn-victims-at-al-shifa-hospital-in-gaza-city-on-feb-29-2024-israeli-forces-opened-fire-thursday-on-a-crowd-of-palestinians-waiting-for-ai People mourn in the aftermath of the shooting at an aid convoy in Gaza city. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“The unacceptable nature of what happened in Gaza, with dozens of Palestinian civilians dead as they were waiting for food, underlines the urgency of a ceasefire,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares wrote on X.

 Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry condemned the deaths and reiterated “the need to reach an immediate ceasefire”.

“China urges the relevant parties, especially Israel, to cease fire and end the fighting immediately, earnestly protect civilians’ safety, ensure that humanitarian aid can enter, and avoid an even more serious humanitarian disaster,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said after expressing shock at the news. 

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said her country was “horrified by today’s catastrophe in Gaza and the ongoing humanitarian crisis that has led to it”.

“These events underscore why for months Australia has been calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza,” she said.

“I have instructed my department to express Australia’s views directly to the Israeli ambassador.”

Qatar’s foreign ministry condemned “in the strongest terms the heinous massacre committed by the Israeli occupation”, calling for “urgent international action” to halt the fighting in Gaza.

It went on to warn that Israel’s “disregard for Palestinian lives… will ultimately undermine international efforts aimed at implementing the two-state solution, and thus pave the way for the expansion of the cycle of violence in the region”.

Israeli denials 

Israeli officials have denied the IDF opened fire on the crowd and accused civilians of “looting” the aid convoy.

Israeli spokesperson Eylon Levy has repeatedly denied that shots were fired at civilians in posts on X, saying the story was “made up”. 

The Israeli military said a “stampede” occurred when thousands of Gazans surrounded a convoy of 38 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some people being run over.

An Israeli source said troops had opened fire on the crowd, believing it “posed a threat”.

IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said that while Israeli tanks had fired “warning shots” attempting to disperse the crowd, that “no IDF strike was conducted towards the aid convoy”. 

The Israeli siege, bombardment and ground invasion of the Gaza strip has now killed more than 30,000 people and aid agencies, including UN officials, have repeatedly warned that famine is imminent. 

With reporting from AFP