Aid Truck Stampede 'Massacre' In Gaza: Israel Accused Of Opening Fire On Crowd

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Feb 29, 2024 - 04:20 PM

There are reports of a mass casualty event in Gaza City on Thursday, with Hamas claiming at least 104 Palestinians killed and several hundred wounded or injured (though casualty numbers have fluctuated in the immediate aftermath). However, Israel is disputing local accounts of what happened and says people died following a stampede caused by Palestinians rushing aid trucks.

There are several different versions of what happened, but all accounts agree that mayhem was unleashed when some 30 humanitarian aid trucks containing food were positioned on the street under Israeli protection. Gaza has been on the brink of famine, and so reportedly hundreds of people rushed toward to trucks hoping to obtain something.

Desperate Gazans seeking food, aid and shelter, via Times of Israel

And that's when according to The Guardian, "An Israeli source said Israeli troops opened fire on Thursday at 'several people' among a crowd that surrounded aid trucks in the Gaza Strip after feeling under threat."

Quickly in the aftermath, and as gruesome videos emerged from the scene, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement condemning what he described as "the ugly massacre conducted by the Israeli occupation army this morning."

Palestinians say that Israeli troops shot indiscriminately into the crowd and used the aid trucks in a kind of "ambush" - while Israel's military says people were killed in a "stampede for aid" and "crowd crush," and that some of the deaths were the result of Israeli soldiers being under immediate threat. 

Widely circulating video from the aftermath (warning: disturbing images)

Al Jazeera's on the ground account is as follows

The more we talk to people about what happened during the attack near Gaza City this morning, the more it becomes clear they feel it was a trap, an ambush.

As soon as people approached incoming trucks carrying food aid, they were shot at. There were attack drones in the sky. There was also fire from naval forces and armored vehicles in the vicinity.

All at once, these military forces fired at a group of people who were hungry, traumatized and displaced. People who were just trying to get their hands on whatever they could to feed their families and stay alive.

The number of dead from the attack has now risen to 104 and there are still, unfortunately, injured people left on the road. Paramedics, civil defense crew and volunteers are trying to help get these people to hospitals, but are finding it very difficult to get to the area. We are expecting the number of casualties to increase even more in the coming hours.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are admitting that at least some of the deaths are the result of Israeli fire. "However, the army also acknowledged that troops opened fire on several of the Gazans, who they said were endangering soldiers," reports Times of Israel.

The IDF is saying that the vast majority of the deaths were the result of the stampede itself, or being run over by trucks, after "looting" broke out. There were reportedly some 30 trucks and thousands of Palestinians rushing past checkpoints during the mayhem to try and access the aid. 

Israel has since published overhead drone footage which its says vindicates its version of events, but which also included the admission of shooting people in the legs. The below contains the IDF version of events:

According to an initial IDF probe of the crush, the vast majority of the casualties were a result of trampling and being struck by the aid trucks.

The incident began at around 4 a.m., when some 30 trucks carrying humanitarian aid arrived at the coast of Gaza City, to deliver food to Palestinians in the Rimal neighborhood.

...Dozens of Palestinians who rushed the last truck in the convoy began to move toward an IDF tank and troops stationed at the military’s checkpoint, the investigation found.

An officer stationed in the area ordered soldiers to fire warning shots in the air as the Palestinians were within a few dozen meters, as well as gunfire at the legs of those who continued to move toward the troops, the probe said.

The IDF said that fewer than 10 of the casualties were a result of Israeli fire.

Below is the drone footage published by Israel's military:

The Associated Press has interviewed one of the victims and has published the following eyewitness account:

Kamel Abu Nahel, who was being treated for a gunshot wound at Shifa hospital, said he and others went to the distribution point 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 said.

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

Medics arriving at the scene on Thursday found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground, according to Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at Kamal Adwan hospital. He said there were not enough ambulances to collect all the dead and wounded and that some were being brought to hospitals in donkey carts.

Hamas has released a statement saying this mass killing calls into question the future of ceasefire 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 as reported by Reuters.

Just days ago President Biden raised eyebrows in hastily and seemingly prematurely declaring his hope that a truce deal between Hamas and Israel would be achieved by Monday. But now this is even less likely, though that timetable was acknowledged as unrealistic by all parties in response. A spokesperson for Biden's National Security Council said this in the wake of Thursday's Gaza City tragedy: "This is a serious incident and we are looking into the reports. We mourn the loss of innocent life and recognize the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, where innocent Palestinians are just trying to feed their families."

Amid the increased desperation and some initial reports that children in Gaza have already begun dying of starvation and malnutrition, the US administration is now said to be mulling air-dropping food crates and medical supplies over Gaza. Jordan has already been doing this with some degree of success, as we previously highlighted.