Israel-Hamas war: What we know about Gaza aid truck deaths | World News - Hindustan Times
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Israel-Hamas war: What we know about Gaza aid truck deaths

AFP |
Mar 01, 2024 04:41 AM IST

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said 104 people were shot dead and 760 were wounded.

Competing claims emerged after dozens of people were killed Thursday in a scramble for aid in Gaza, with the Hamas-run territory's health ministry saying Israeli forces shot them, but the army insisting they died in a stampede.

This image grab from a handout video released by the Israeli army on February 29, 2024, shows what the army says are Gazans around aid trucks in Gaza City. Israeli forces shot dead 104 people when a crowd rushed towards aid trucks on February 29, the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said.(AFP)
This image grab from a handout video released by the Israeli army on February 29, 2024, shows what the army says are Gazans around aid trucks in Gaza City. Israeli forces shot dead 104 people when a crowd rushed towards aid trucks on February 29, the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said.(AFP)

Here is what we know so far:

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Did Israeli troops open fire?

A witness in Gaza City told AFP the violence unfolded when thousands of people desperate for food rushed towards aid trucks at the city's western Nabulsi roundabout.

"Trucks full of aid came too close to some army tanks that were in the area and the crowd, thousands of people, just stormed the trucks," the witness said, declining to be named for safety reasons.

“The soldiers fired at the crowd as people came too close to the tanks.”

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said 104 people were shot dead and 760 were wounded.

Also Read | 'Pity us': Deadly scenes as desperate Gazans rush aid trucks

Hossam Abu Safiya, director of Gaza City's Kamal Adwan Hospital, said all the casualties were hit by "bullets and shrapnel from occupation forces".

An Israeli military official said there was an initial stampede, involving "thousands of people" in which "dozens of Gazans were injured and killed, some of them run over by the trucks".

Part of the convoy had then managed to continue on its way.

"Dozens of civilians rushed to the trucks, approached the tanks and the forces nearby," the official said.

This image grab from a handout video released by the Israeli army on February 29, 2024, shows what the army says are Gazans around aid trucks in Gaza City. Israeli forces shot dead 104 people when a crowd rushed towards aid trucks on February 29.(AFP)
This image grab from a handout video released by the Israeli army on February 29, 2024, shows what the army says are Gazans around aid trucks in Gaza City. Israeli forces shot dead 104 people when a crowd rushed towards aid trucks on February 29.(AFP)

"Soldiers fired warning shots in the air and then fired towards those that posed a threat and did not move away.

"I can say we had a limited response, limited fire... It was not a massive event from our perspective."

Aerial images released by the Israeli army showed what it said were scores of Gazans surrounding aid trucks in Gaza City.

AFP images showed mourners gathered around bodies wrapped in white shrouds at Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital.

Also Read | Israel killed 25,000 Palestinian women, children since Oct 7 attack: Pentagon

Ali Awad Ashqir, who had gone to get some flour for his starving family, had been waiting for two hours when violence erupted.

"At approximately 4:00 am the trucks began to arrive. The moment they arrived, the occupation army fired artillery shells and guns," he told AFP.

Have Gazans ransacked aid before?

On February 20, the World Food Programme announced that despite widespread hunger, it was again suspending aid deliveries to northern Gaza after two convoys were mobbed and looted by desperate civilians.

The two convoys were the first in more than three weeks.

On February 18, a convoy had to fend off "multiple attempts by people trying to climb aboard our trucks, then facing gunfire once we entered Gaza City", the UN agency said.

On February 19, "several trucks were looted... and a truck driver was beaten. The remaining flour was spontaneously distributed off the trucks in Gaza City, amidst high tension and explosive anger," it added.

Why are Gazans so desperate?

For months, aid workers have warned of an increasingly desperate situation for Gazan civilians, and on Monday an official from the UN humanitarian office OCHA said widespread starvation was "almost inevitable".

UN estimates show that 2.2 million people -- the vast majority of the Gaza Strip's population -- are threatened with famine, particularly in northern areas around Gaza City.

According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, just over 2,300 aid trucks entered the Gaza Strip in February, a drop of about 50 percent compared with January.

That is an average of well below 100 trucks per day, down from around 500 that were entering daily before the war.

Who organised Thursday's convoy?

The Israeli military official did not specify who organised the aid convoy and a senior UN aid official said it was not any UN agency.

"Neither UNRWA nor any other UN agency were involved in this distribution," said Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, the main UN aid agency in Gaza, in a post on X.

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