Gaza City shooting: 104 killed, 750 injured as Israeli forces fire at aid seekers

Gaza City shooting

Jerusalem: A deadly shooting incident occurred at a Gaza aid point, where Israeli forces shot dead 104 people and injured more than 750 others, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. The incident took place at Gaza City’s Nabulsi roundabout, where a crowd of Palestinians rushed towards aid trucks that were near Israeli army tanks.

The ministry spokesman, Ashraf al-Qudra, said that hundreds of people were killed and wounded by the “bullets of the occupation forces that targeted a gathering of citizens” in one of the worst single incidents of a nearly five-month war between Israel and Hamas militants.

A witness, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that “thousands of people” had “just stormed the trucks” in a desperate attempt to get food and medicine. “The soldiers fired at the crowd as people came too close to the tanks,” the witness said.

Israeli sources confirmed that troops opened fire at Palestinians rushing toward aid trucks in Gaza, with one saying soldiers thought they “posed a threat” to the troops. However, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office claimed that many of the dead were crushed by the trucks themselves, after “aid trucks were overwhelmed by people trying to loot”.

What are the reactions?

The Gaza City shooting sparked outrage and condemnation from various parties, including the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League, and human rights groups. They called for an immediate investigation into the incident and urged both sides to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians.

US President Joe Biden said the United States was checking “competing versions” of what happened and did not have an answer yet. He expressed his concern that the incident would complicate the negotiations for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which have been ongoing for weeks with the mediation of Egypt and Qatar. “I know it will,” he said when asked if he was worried.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, denounced the shooting as a “massacre” and a “war crime” and vowed to retaliate. “The blood of our martyrs will not go in vain,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. “We will continue to resist the occupation until we liberate our land and our people.”

Israel, on the other hand, defended its actions as a necessary response to the “violent riot” and the “attempted infiltration” of its troops by the Palestinians. “We will not allow anyone to harm our soldiers or our citizens,” said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “We will use all means to protect ourselves and to prevent the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.”

What is the context?

The Gaza City shooting adds to the mounting death toll and suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007 and has witnessed four wars with Israel since then. The latest round of violence erupted in November 2023, after Israel assassinated a senior Hamas commander in Gaza, sparking a barrage of rocket fire from the militant group and a massive aerial bombardment from the Israeli army.

Gaza City shooting

According to the health ministry in Gaza, more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 100,000 injured since the start of the war, while thousands of homes, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure have been destroyed or damaged. The United Nations estimates that more than 80% of the population of Gaza, which is home to about two million people, needs humanitarian assistance, while the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the already dire situation.

Israel, meanwhile, says it has been defending itself from the “terrorist” attacks of Hamas, which it considers a proxy of Iran and a threat to its security and existence. Israel claims it has killed more than 1,000 militants and destroyed hundreds of rocket launchers, tunnels, and weapons depots in Gaza. Israel also says it has suffered 12 fatalities and hundreds of injuries from the rocket fire from Gaza, while its Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted most of the projectiles.