Israel denies firing at crowds seeking aid; Hamas counters with 'undeniable' proof

The overall toll has passed 30,000

israel-gaza-aid-afp This image grab from a handout video released by the Israeli army shows what the army says are Gazans around aid trucks in Gaza City | AFP

More than a hundred people were killed and over 500 injured while trying to get aid in Gaza, even as Gazan health authorities said Israeli forces opened fire at the crowd.

Israel, however, blamed the deaths on crowding around the aid trucks, saying the people died in stampede and some were run over by the vehicles themselves when they tried to avoid rampaging crowds.

At least 112 people were killed in the incident near Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said, with the toll in the Israel-Hamas war crossing 30,000. Israel, however, denied the toll.

Hamas-run Gaza has been bombarded by Israeli forces for months since the Palestinian militant group's deadly rampage in southern Israel on October 7 last year, which left more than 1,000 dead according to Israel.

Israel Defence Forces spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari also said dozens had been trampled to death or injured while trying to take supplies off the trucks. He said the tanks escorting the trucks had fired warning shots to disperse the crowd but backed away when things got out of hand. "No IDF strike was conducted towards the aid convoy," he said. "The IDF was there conducting a humanitarian operation to secure the humanitarian corridor and allow the aid convoy to reach its designated distribution point."

Some Israeli officials, however, were quoted by Reuters as saying that they had to open fire as the crowds became unruly and the security forces felt threatened. Hamas, too, rejected Israel's account, saying the health ministry has "undeniable" evidence of "direct firing at citizens, including headshots aimed at immediate killing, in addition to the testimonies of all witnesses who confirmed being targeted with direct fire without posing any threat to the occupying army".

UN and other relief agencies have accused Israel of blocking and restricting their attempts to provide aid, though Israel has denied the allegations.

Will it affect talks in Qatar?

Hamas said the incident could jeopardise the ongoing talks in Qatar on ceasefire and and the release of Israeli hostages. US President Joe Biden, too indicated that the incident will complicate the talks.

The US State Department said it was urgently seeking information on the incident. The French foreign ministry, too, has followed suit, with foreign ministry spokesperson Christophe Lemoine saying that Israel was responsible under international law for protecting aid distribution to civilians

The White House said Biden discussed the "tragic and alarming incident" with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, as well as ways to secure the release of Israeli hostages and a six-week ceasefire.


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