Israel faces growing international pressure to investigate Gaza aid convoy deaths

France and Germany add their voice to calls from the US and UN for an inquiry – with health officials in Gaza saying more than 100 Palestinians were killed and Israeli troops opened fire

John Irish
Friday 01 March 2024 17:11 GMT
A Palestinian man receives medical care at Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip in the wake of Thursday’s incident
A Palestinian man receives medical care at Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip in the wake of Thursday’s incident (AFP via Getty)

Israel is facing mounting international pressure for an investigation after more than 100 Palestinians were killed when desperate crowds gathered around an aid convoy and Israeli soldiers opened fire.

France and Germany have backed a call for an international inquiry, along with the US. India said it was “deeply shocked” at the deaths and Brazil said the incident was beyond “ethical or legal limits”.

Health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza said Israeli forces had killed at least 112 people trying to reach a relief convoy near Gaza City early on Thursday, with famine looming nearly five months into the war. The Hamas attack on 7 October killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel and involved the seizure of 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. The Israeli response of an aerial bombardment, ground operations and a blockade, has since killed more than 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza, health authorities in the territory say.

Israel blamed most of the deaths in the aid convoy incident on crowds that swarmed around trucks, saying victims had been trampled or run over. An Israeli official also said troops had later fired on some in the crowd they felt had posed a threat, in a “limited response”.

The head of a Gaza City hospital that treated some of the wounded said on Friday that more than 80 per cent had been struck by gunfire. Dr Mohammed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda Hospital, told The Associated Press that 176 people were brought to the facility, of whom 142 had suffered gunshot wounds. The other 34 showed injuries from a stampede.

In Israel, ultranationalist security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir urged “total support” to Israeli soldiers who had “acted excellently”.

Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah, southern Gaza
Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah, southern Gaza (Reuters)

With a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza, many countries have called for a ceasefire, but US President Joe Biden said Thursday’s incident will complicate talks over a deal involving a truce and hostage release. South Africa, which has brought a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, condemned the deaths. Israel denies genocide.

French President Emmanuel Macron voiced “deep indignation” and the “strongest condemnation of these shootings”. Germany said “the Israeli army must fully explain how the mass panic and shooting could have happened”.

Israel’s closest ally, the United States, has also urged a thorough investigation, saying the incident shows the need for “expanded humanitarian aid to make its way into Gaza”.

The humanitarian situation is dire, particularly in the north, with people eating animal feed and even cactuses to survive. Medics also say children are dying in hospitals from malnutrition and dehydration and the UN has said it faces “overwhelming obstacles” to getting in aid.

The UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, said obstacles included “crossing closures, restrictions on movement and communications, onerous vetting procedures, unrest, damaged roads and unexploded ordnance”.

Last week, the UN said aid flows into Gaza were drying up and it was becoming increasingly hard to distribute aid within the enclave because of a collapse in security, with most residents hemmed into makeshift camps.

Israel has said there is no limit on humanitarian aid in Gaza and has said the quantity and pace of delivery was up to the UN.

Israel’s military said Thursday’s delivery was operated by private contractors as part of an aid operation it had been overseeing for the previous four days. OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said the delivery was made without any coordination with the UN.


Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in