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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Death toll surpasses 30,000 in Gaza; scores die while awaiting assistance

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CAIRO — The health department in Gaza reported that over 100 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces while awaiting an aid delivery on Thursday. However, Israel disputed the death count, claiming that many of the casualties were caused by aid trucks running over people.

According to Palestinian health officials, the incident near Gaza City resulted in at least 112 deaths and over 280 injuries, pushing the death toll from the ongoing conflict past 30,000.

Medical personnel expressed their inability to handle the sheer number and severity of the injuries. Many of the injured were rushed to Al-Shifa hospital, which is only partially functional due to Israeli raids.

This incident marked the highest civilian death toll in recent weeks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described it as a “horrific massacre perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army on people who were waiting for aid trucks at the Nabulsi roundabout.”

Israel contested the narrative presented by health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza, which has been under Israeli bombardment for months following a deadly attack by the Palestinian militant group in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

An Israeli military official explained that two separate incidents occurred as the convoy of trucks entered northern Gaza from the south along the main coastal road.

He stated that in the first incident, aid trucks were swarmed by hundreds of people, leading to dozens of injuries and deaths due to trampling or being run over in the ensuing chaos.

As the trucks departed, he said, some of those who had rushed the convoy approached Israeli forces, including a tank, which subsequently opened fire.

“The soldiers fired warning shots in the air and then fired towards those who posed a threat and did not move away,” he told reporters. “This is what we understand. We’re continuing to review the circumstances.”

He expressed skepticism about the death toll reported by the Palestinian authorities but did not provide an Israeli estimate, describing it as a “limited response.”

Biden anticipates complications in truce negotiations

Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza health ministry, interpreted the comments as evidence of Israel’s “premeditated intentions to commit this new crime and massacre,” and warned that the death toll could still rise.

Hamas, which has governed the Gaza strip since 2007, expressed concern that the incident could undermine negotiations in Qatar aimed at securing a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages.

When asked if he thought the incident would complicate the talks, President Joe Biden responded, “I know it will.”

Diplomats revealed that the U.N. Security Council would convene a closed-door meeting to discuss the situation in Gaza.

One video circulating on social media, which Reuters was able to verify, showed trucks laden with numerous dead bodies and injured individuals.

Another video, which Reuters could not verify, depicted bloodied individuals being transported 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.

A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council stated: “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.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin informed a congressional hearing that more than 25,000 women and children had been killed by Israel in Gaza since Oct. 7 and that Israel could and should do more to protect civilians.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths expressed his shock, stating, “even after close to five months of brutal hostilities, Gaza still has the ability to shock us.”

Palestinian death toll exceeds 30,000

The Palestinian health authorities reported that 30,035 Palestinians have been confirmed killed and over 70,000 injured in Israel’s offensive, which was launched in response to the Oct. 7 attack in which Israel claimed Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and kidnapped 253.

Most of Gaza has been reduced to rubble, and the majority of its 2.3 million population have been displaced from their homes at least once.

Aid deliveries to northern Gaza have been infrequent and chaotic, passing through active military zones to an area where the U.N. reports widespread starvation, with videos showing desperate crowds swarming around supply trucks.

U.N. and other relief agencies have complained that Israel has obstructed or limited their attempts to deliver aid to the area.

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

Gaza’s uniformed municipal police have refused to accompany aid convoys because several of their members have been killed by Israeli strikes.

“The more you decrease the supply into Gaza, the more you will fuel the distress and despair,” Lazzarini said.

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

On Wednesday, Israel announced that a convoy of 31 trucks had moved to northern Gaza on Tuesday night and that the U.N. was responsible for distribution. The U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA stated that no U.N. agency was involved in that aid convoy.

The conflict in Gaza has also heightened tensions with Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Two men were killed there when a gunman opened fire at a gas station and was “neutralized” by security forces, according to the Israeli military.

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