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Men carry an injured Palestinian at Al-Shifa hospital after an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City, on Feb. 29.-/Getty Images

Gaza health authorities said Israeli forces on Thursday shot dead more than 100 Palestinians as they waited for an aid delivery, but Israel blamed the deaths on crowds that surrounded aid trucks, saying victims had been trampled or run over.

At least 112 people were killed and more than 280 wounded in the incident near Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Medics said they could not cope with the flood of serious injuries, which came on the day the death toll in nearly five months of war passed 30,000, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Israel disputed the account provided by officials in Hamas-run Gaza, which has been bombarded by Israeli forces for months in a war that began after the Palestinian militant group’s deadly rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Its military said the trucks were operated by private contractors as part of an aid operation that it had been overseeing for the past four nights.

One official said there had been two incidents, hundreds of metres apart, in the first of which dozens were killed or injured as they tried to take aid from the trucks and were trampled or run over.

Subsequently, as the trucks moved off, he said there was a second incident in which some people in the crowd approached troops who felt under threat and opened fire, killing an unknown number in a “limited response.” He dismissed the casualty toll given by Gaza authorities but gave no figure himself.

In a later briefing, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari also said dozens had been trampled to death or injured in a fight to take supplies off the trucks.

He said tanks escorting the trucks had subsequently fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, and backed away when events began to get 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.”

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Palestinians walk through the destruction from the Israeli offensive in Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.Mahmoud Essa/The Associated Press


Hamas issued a statement rejecting the Israeli account.

It said the Health Ministry had presented “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.”

U.S. President Joe 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.

It said it had consistently pressed Israel for viable plans to maintain basic security in Gaza.

“We have yet to see those be implemented, and we’re deeply concerned about that … the continued loss of life is deeply alarming and very, very, very tragic,” spokesperson Olivia Dalton said.

The U.S. State Department said it was “urgently seeking additional information on exactly what took place.”

The loss of civilian lives was the biggest in weeks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was an “ugly massacre conducted by the Israeli occupation army on people who waited for aid trucks at the Nabulsi roundabout.”

French foreign ministry spokesperson Christophe Lemoine said Israel was responsible under international law for protecting aid distribution to civilians.

Hamas said the incident could jeopardize talks in Qatar aimed at securing a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages it is holding, while Mr. Biden, when asked if he thought it would complicate the talks said, “I know it will.”

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, said the comments showed Israel “had preplotted intentions to carry out the new crime and massacre,” and that the death toll could rise.

One video shared on social media, whose location Reuters was able to verify, showed trucks loaded with many dead bodies as well as wounded people.

Another, which Reuters could not verify, showed bloodstained people being carried in a truck, bodies wrapped in shrouds and doctors treating injured patients on the hospital floor.

“We don’t want aid like this. We don’t want aid and bullets together. There are many martyrs,” a man said in one of the videos.

Speaking in St. Vincent and the Grenadines ahead of a regional summit, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the incident would require an effective independent investigation and was “shocked” by the latest episode in the war with Israel.

The Pentagon expressed alarm but declined to assign any blame. “These are human beings that are trying to feed themselves” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, told a news briefing. “We’re all kind of looking at that and saying: ‘What happened here?’ ”

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Palestinian citizens collect water from a water filling station as people suffer water shortages due to the war in Rafah.Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images


The Palestinian health authorities said 30,035 Palestinians were now confirmed killed and more than 70,000 wounded in Israel’s offensive, launched after the Oct. 7 attack in which Israel said Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and abducted 253.

Much of Gaza has been reduced to rubble and most of its 2.3 million population have been displaced from their homes at least once.

Aid deliveries to northern Gaza have been sparse and chaotic, passing through more active military zones to an area where the UN says many are starving, with videos showing desperate crowds surging around supply trucks.

UN and other relief agencies have complained that Israel has blocked or restricted their attempts to get aid in.

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN Palestinian aid agency UNRWA, told reporters in Jerusalem that the supply of aid into Gaza as a whole had halved since January.

He described Thursday as “another day from hell” and asked, “When will this madness end?”

He said Gaza’s uniformed municipal police were refusing to accompany aid convoys because several had been killed by Israeli strikes.

Israel has denied restricting humanitarian aid and has blamed the UN for failures to deliver supplies.

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