‘Massacre’: Dozens killed by Israeli fire in Gaza while collecting food aid

Desperate residents under Israeli attack while trying to get flour for families as famine stalks the strip.

Palestinians line up for food in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 23, 2024 [Fatima Shbai/AP Photo]By Al Jazeera StaffPublished On 29 Feb 202429 Feb 2024

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed and more than 200 others wounded after Israeli troops opened fire on hundreds waiting for food aid southwest of Gaza City, as the besieged enclave faces an unprecedented hunger crisis.

Gaza’s government media office accused the Israeli army of “committing a horrific massacre”. More than 70 people were killed and about 250 others wounded, it said in a statement on Thursday.

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The citizens had congregated at al-Rashid Street, where aid trucks carrying flour were believed to be on the way. Al Jazeera verified footage showing the bodies of dozens of killed and wounded Palestinians being carried onto trucks as no ambulances could reach the area.

“We went to get flour. The Israeli army shot at us. There are many martyrs on the ground and until this moment we are withdrawing them. There is no first aid,” said one witness.

One Palestinian man told the Quds News Network the military attack was a “crime”.

“I have been waiting since yesterday. At about 4.30 this morning, trucks started to come through. Once we approached the aid trucks, the Israeli tanks and warplanes started firing at us, as if it was a trap.

“To the Arab states I say, if you want to have us killed, why are you sending relief aid? If this continues, we do not want any aid delivered at all. Every convoy coming means another massacre.”

Jadallah Al-Shafei, the head of the nurses department at al-Shifa Hospital, said that “the situation is beyond any words”, adding that “the hospital was flooded with dozens of dead bodies and hundreds of injured”.

“The majority of the victims suffered gunshots and shrapnel in the head and upper parts of their bodies. They were hit by direct artillery shelling, drone missiles and gun firing,” he told Al Jazeera.

The mass shooting was the latest instance of systematic attacks on hungry people waiting for scraps of food. Over the past few days, Palestinians gathered in large groups waiting for aid trucks on Salah al-Din Street near Gaza City have been shot at by Israeli forces, said Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Rafah in the enclave’s south.

Recently, a truck that was supposed to deliver aid to people in Gaza tragically turned into the truck carrying those injured and killed, he added.

With aid agencies unable to deliver supplies to northern Gaza since January 23, many are taking a long trek towards the south by foot.

Famine

On Wednesday, Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), told the United Nations Security Council more than 500,000, or one in four people, were at risk of famine, with one child in every six below the age of two considered acutely malnourished.

“The risk of famine is being fuelled by the inability to bring critical food supplies into Gaza in sufficient quantities, and the almost impossible operating conditions faced by our staff on the ground,” he said.

He described dangerous conditions for WFP trucks trying to get food to the north earlier this month. “There were delays at checkpoints; they faced gunfire and other violence; food was looted along the way; and at their destination, they were overwhelmed by desperately hungry people,” said Skau.

Aid agencies claim that Israel has been delaying deliveries. Israel denies that charge. It submitted a report to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the measures taken to avert suffering in the besieged enclave. Rights groups say Israel acted in breach of the ICJ order issued in January.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said on Sunday on social media that calls to allow food distribution in Gaza amid the ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas have been denied or “have fallen on deaf ears”.

Warning against “looming famine”, the UN official said the situation is becoming a “man-made disaster”.

Israel launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip following a Hamas-led attack on October 7. More than 30,000 people are reported to have been killed to date, mostly women and children.

Source: Al Jazeera