Israel Gaza war UN chief urges investigation into aid convoy tragedy

Israel-Gaza war: UN chief urges investigation into aid convoy tragedy

  • By Thomas Mackintosh
  • BBC News

March 1, 2024, 09:36 GMT

Updated 7 minutes ago

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Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia said it was receiving dead and wounded people from western Gaza City

Several countries have joined the United Nations in calling for an investigation into the deaths of more than 100 Palestinians during an aid delivery in Gaza.

At least 117 people were killed and more than 760 injured Thursday as they crowded around aid trucks.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the incident and said “desperate civilians” needed urgent help.

Hamas accused Israel of firing on civilians, but Israel said most died in a crush after it fired warning shots.

International criticism of Israel increased on Thursday when French President Emmanuel Macron said civilians had been “attacked by Israeli soldiers.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell described the incident as a “completely unacceptable bloodbath.”

Reacting to the incident, Mr. Guterres wrote on social media: “I condemn Thursday's incident in Gaza, in which more than 100 people were reportedly killed or injured while seeking life-saving assistance.”

“The desperate civilians in Gaza urgently need help, including those in the north, where the United Nations has been unable to provide assistance for more than a week.”

On Friday, France, Italy and Germany also called for an independent investigation into the deaths in the aid convoy.

Image source: Getty Images

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Injured Palestinians were taken to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City for treatment

The Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza described the incident as a “massacre.”

The UN Security Council has called a closed emergency meeting to discuss the incident, at which Algeria – the body's Arab representative – submitted a draft statement blaming Israeli forces for “opening fire”.

While 14 of the council's 15 members supported the motion, the United States blocked it, the AP news agency reported, citing Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour, who spoke to reporters afterwards. U.S. envoy Robert Wood said the facts of the incident remained unclear.

Thursday's incident occurred shortly after 04:45 (02:45 GMT) at the Nabulsi roundabout on the southwestern edge of Gaza City.

Ramzi Mohammed Rihan was injured in the stampede and described what he saw to BBC Arabic.

He said: “We were told that a shipment of flour would arrive via Al-Nabulsi Street and that there would be no shooting.”

“We went to get flour to feed our children. We went to Nabulsi Street and before the trucks arrived there was gunfire.”

“When the trucks pulled in, we walked towards them and as we tried to get the first bag of flour out of the truck, they started shooting at us.”

Mr Rihan said he was taken to hospital on a cart and his X-rays were delayed due to a lack of power.

Khaled al-Tarawish was also injured and said his operation was also postponed due to a lack of fuel at Al-Awada Hospital.

“I went to Nabulsi Street to get a bag of flour,” he said. “Because of the crowd I ran under the car, I went to Awda Hospital where they told me that I had to undergo an operation, but because there was no diesel fuel, they told me the operation would be done three days later .”

“All I want is to supply the hospital with diesel fuel so that I can undergo the operation and receive my treatment.”

The convoy of 30 trucks carrying Egyptian aid was traveling north along what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) described as a “humanitarian corridor,” which the Israel Defense Forces said it was securing.

IDF chief spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said civilians surrounded the convoy and people began climbing onto the trucks.

“Some began violently pushing to death and even trampling other Gazans and looted humanitarian supplies,” he said. “Dozens of people were killed and injured in the Gaza Strip in the unfortunate incident.”


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The Israeli military released aerial videos showing hundreds of Palestinians crowding around aid trucks

Israeli tanks, he said, “carefully tried to disperse the mob with a few warning shots” but retreated “as hundreds became thousands and things got out of control.”

Another IDF spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said some civilians approached a checkpoint about 70 meters (230 feet) away and ignored warning shots from soldiers there.

He said the soldiers, fearing that some of the civilians posed a threat, then opened fire on those who approached in what he described as a “limited response.”

Hamas rejected the IDF's account, citing “indisputable” evidence of “direct shooting of citizens, including shots in the head with the aim of instant killing.”

The incident came hours before Gaza's Health Ministry announced that more than 30,000 people, including 21,000 children and women, have been killed in Gaza since the current conflict began on October 7. Around 7,000 people were missing and 70,450 injured, it said.

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Watch: Devastation after dozens die during aid deliveries in Gaza

Mr Gutteres added: “I am appalled by the tragic toll of the conflict in Gaza – more than 30,000 people have reportedly been killed and over 70,000 injured.”

“I reiterate my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the unconditional release of all hostages.”

The chief executive of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in the UK, Natalie Roberts, said providing aid to a starving population without adequate security risks catastrophe. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she said: “We know there have been.” With very few aid convoys in the north in recent weeks, people have been unable to get food.

“We know from our own colleagues that they have to eat animal foods, that they sometimes go for days without eating. And so people are just completely desperate, and as soon as you start delivering food to the region without any kind of security for the convoy, then something like that was always going to happen.

The UN is warning of impending famine in the territory's north, where an estimated 300,000 people live with little food and clean water.

The Israeli military launched a large-scale air and ground campaign to destroy Hamas – which is banned as a terrorist organization by Israel, Britain and others – after its gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7 and returned 253 hostages to Gaza .