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Injured survivors of Gaza aid chaos say Israeli forces shot at them

Some Palestinians injured in a Gaza aid delivery disaster said on Friday that Israeli forces shot them as they rushed to get food for their families, describing a scene of terror and chaos.

 

Health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza said 115 people were killed in the incident on Thursday, attributing the deaths to Israeli fire and calling it a massacre.

Israel disputed those figures and said most victims were trampled or run over.

The incident underscored the collapse of orderly aid distribution in areas of Gaza occupied by Israeli forces with no administration in place and the main U.N. agency UNRWA hamstrung by an inquiry into alleged links with Hamas.

Four witnesses, who spoke at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City in a video obtained by Reuters, said they were fired upon by Israeli forces, some describing tanks and armed drones being involved.

Mahmoud Ahmad said he began waiting on Wednesday evening for the convoy that eventually arrived on Thursday morning, saying hunger forced him to take the risk of going to the delivery route in hopes of getting flour for his children.

As the aid trucks came into northern Gaza he went towards them but, he said, a tank and a “quadcopter” drone began to fire. “I was injured in my back. I was bleeding for an hour until one of my relatives came and took me to hospital,” he said.

“When the aid entered, the tank and quadcopter started firing at the people gathered, the people who went to get food for themselves and their children. They started shooting at them,” he said.

Jihad Mohammed said he was waiting at Nabulsi roundabout on the Al-Rashid coast road, the main delivery route into northern Gaza from the south.

“We went and waited for the trucks and then there was firing at all the people and then I was injured,” he said.

Asked if he believed Israeli forces had fired on them deliberately, he said “Yes, that’s right. They used tanks, soldiers, aircraft… all were firing towards us”.

Sami Mohammed was at the Al-Rashid road with his son waiting for the aid convoy to arrive. “My son ran to the beach and they shot him twice… one grazed his head and the other hit his chest,” he said. He said bullets and shells were fired.

The boy was lying in a hospital bed with bandages on his chest and arm and a cut on his face.

Abdallah Juha said he went to try to get a sack of flour for his parents. “We are very hungry. We don’t have food or anything. They fired at us… they squashed us,” he said, adding that the fire came from tanks.

Juha, who had a bandage on his face, was injured in the head by a bullet. “My little bother cries because he wants to eat. Where should I get him food?” he said.

The U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA said a U.N. team visited Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Friday to deliver medical supplies and met people injured in the incident.

“By the time of the team’s visit, the hospital had also received the bodies of more than 70 people who had been killed” it said.

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

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

In a later briefing on Thursday, 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.

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