Guterres says 'appalled by human toll of conflict' after Israel kills & wounds 900 Palestinians at aid point Thursday - as it happened

Ahram Online , Thursday 29 Feb 2024

Ahram Online is following the latest developments in the Israeli war on Gaza on its 146th day.

Casualties from Israeli attack on hungry people at Al Rasheed Street in northern Gaza loaded on a truck, on Thursday 29 February, 2024. Photo courtesy of QUDS news.


22:15 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the Israeli strikes that killed and wounded nearly 900 Palestinians at a humanitarian aid point west of Gaza City on Thursday morning.

"The desperate civilians in Gaza need urgent help, including those in the besieged north where the United Nations has not been able to deliver aid in more than a week," spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement, adding that Guterres was "appalled by the tragic human toll of the conflict."

A near-total Israeli blockade on all food and fuel deliveries to northern Gaza since 7 October has left tens of thousands of Palestinians in the region on the verge of starvation.

21:30 President of Colombia Gustavo Petro said Netanyahu's killing of more than 100 Palestinians while they were seeking food on Thursday morning in north Gaza is called genocide and reminded us of the Holocaust.

Colombia recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv on 1 November to protest the Israeli military campaign against Gaza.

21:00 Israel has killed more than 25,000 Palestinian women and children since October 7, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin acknowledged Thursday.

"It's over 25,000," Austin told lawmakers when asked during a House Armed Services Committee hearing for the figure on women and children killed.

The United States has backed Israel since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza on 7 October, which has left more than 30,000 Palestinians dead.

The number provided by Austin is within the same range and comes as Washington pushes for a ceasefire and a reduction in civilian casualties in Gaza.


Demonstrators protest before US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies during a House Committee on Armed Services hearing to examine the circumstances of the failure to communicate his absence during his recent hospitalization, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on February 29, 2024. AFP


21:00 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and US President Joe Biden discussed on Thursday the joint efforts of Egypt, Qatar, and the US to calm the situation in Gaza, reach a ceasefire, exchange prisoners, and facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid to the strip.

During a phone call, El-Sisi stressed to Biden the need to reach an immediate and sustainable ceasefire in the Gaza Strip to allow Palestinian civilians unhindered access to sufficient aid to mitigate the humanitarian crisis exacerbated by Israel's war of aggression on the strip. 

Furthermore, El-Sisi warned of the dangerous consequences of military escalation and targeting of civilians, affirming Egypt’s strong condemnation of targeting defenceless civilians in clear violation of international law and resolutions of international legitimacy.

According to the Egyptian Presidential Spokesperson Ahmed Fahmy, the US President expressed appreciation for the ongoing joint efforts to reach a truce, which, he said, should take precedence to restore stability in the region.

In addition, Biden praised Egypt's intense political efforts to reach a truce and its pioneering role in providing humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.

According to Fahmy, both presidents also stressed the need to avoid the expansion of the conflict in the region, and they agreed to continue consultation and coordination to ensure the restoration of peace and security.

Meanwhile, the White House said US President Biden spoke with the Qatari and Egyptian leaders Thursday on a deal for an "immediate and sustained" Gaza ceasefire of at least six weeks in exchange for the release of hostages.

In separate calls with Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Biden also discussed the "tragic and alarming" aid delivery incident in northern Gaza, it said in a statement.

19:45 In a "change of heart" months after wholeheartedly endorsing the Israeli military campaign against Gaza, Italy called Thursday for an "immediate ceasefire" in the war and called on Israel to protect the Palestinian population after troops opened fire at an aid convoy.

"The tragic deaths in Gaza demand an immediate ceasefire to facilitate more humanitarian aid, the release of hostages, and the protection of civilians. We strongly urge Israel to protect the people in Gaza and to rigorously ascertain facts and responsibilities,"  Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on X.

18:45 A Palestinian opened fire at a gas station near the Jewish settlement of Eli in the occupied West Bank Thursday, killing two Israeli men, the army and medics said.

"A short while ago, a terrorist arrived at a gas station in Eli and opened fire. The terrorist was neutralized," the army said, adding troops were pursuing other suspects in the area.

The incident occurred at the same gas station in Eli where four Israelis were shot dead by three Palestinian men in June last year.

Thursday's shooting came days after three Palestinian men killed one Israeli and wounded several others, including a young pregnant woman, near the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.

It came hours after the Israeli army massacred tens of Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others who were waiting on aid trucks west of Gaza City.

Since the Israeli war on Gaza broke out, Israeli troops and settlers killed at least 403 Palestinians in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Israel has also arrested nearly 6,000 Palestinian youths in raids across the occupied territories.

Palestinian fighters have also carried out numerous attacks against Israeli troops and civilians in Israel and the West Bank, killing at least 17, according to Israeli figures.

18:15 "I'm appalled at the reported killing and injury of hundreds of people during a transfer of aid supplies west of Gaza City," wrote Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian chief, following news the Israeli army killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians who were lining up for aid in northern Gaza.

"Life is draining out of Gaza at terrifying speed," Griffiths added. 

"Even after close to five months of brutal hostilities, Gaza still has the ability to shock us," the UN aid chief said on X, formerly Twitter.

"This comes as the death toll across Gaza since 7 October hits the 30,000 mark.”

17:45 President Joe Biden said that the United States was checking "competing versions" of an Israeli massacre of tens of Palestinians at a Gaza aid point on Thursday morning, adding that it would likely complicate ceasefire negotiations.

"We're checking that right now. There are two competing versions of what happened, I don't have an answer yet," Biden told reporters when asked about the incident, in which the health ministry in Gaza said Israeli troops shot dead 104 people and injured hundreds more.

Asked if he was worried whether it would complicate negotiations for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Biden replied: "I know it will."

On Thursday evening, Hamas called on the United Nations Security Council and the Arab League to hold emergency sessions to take measures to stop Israel from the mass killing and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

17:15 Egypt strongly condemned the inhumane Israeli targeting of a crowd of defenceless Palestinian civilians who were waiting for the arrival of humanitarian aid trucks at the Nabulsi roundabout in northern Gaza, which killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians.

Early Thursday, at least 112 people were killed and more than 760 injured after Israeli jetfighters and tanks opened fire on civilians gathered at an aid distribution point in the Palestinian territory.

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the targeting of peaceful citizens rushing to collect their share of humanitarian aid is a shameful crime, a clear violation of the provisions of international law and international humanitarian law, and a disregard for the value of the human being and the sanctity of his soul. 

The ministry further called on the major international parties, and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), especially the member states impeding the council’s ability to stipulate a ceasefire, to bear their humanitarian, moral and legal responsibility for halting the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip.

It also urged the UNSC member States to provide protection for the Palestinian people and pressure Israel into complying with the provisions of international law and assuming its responsibilities as the occupying power, as well as hold the perpetrators of these violations accountable.

In addition, Egypt reiterated and recalled its steadfast stance demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, the necessity of removing all obstructions that prevent the full and sustainable flow of humanitarian and relief aid into the Strip, and rejecting any attempts targeting the displacement of Palestinians outside their territories.

16:45 The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza condemned what it labelled a "massacre" and said it had claimed at least 104 lives and left 760 people wounded.

Israeli sources confirmed that troops shot at the crowd, allegedly believing they "posed a threat," in the pre-dawn incident in Gaza City in the north of the besieged territory.

A witness told AFP that the violence unfolded when thousands of people desperate for food rushed towards aid trucks at the city's western Nabulsi roundabout.

"Trucks full of aid came too close to some army tanks that were in the area and the crowd, thousands of people, just stormed the trucks," the witness said, declining to be named for safety reasons.

"The soldiers fired at the crowd as people came too close to the tanks."

The Israeli army initially said that "during the entry of humanitarian aid trucks into the northern Gaza Strip, Gazan residents surrounded the trucks and looted the supplies being delivered."

It added that "during the incident, dozens of Gazans were injured as a result of pushing and trampling. The incident is under review."

Later, an Israeli source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity, that "the crowd approached the forces in a manner that posed a threat to the troops, who responded to the threat with live fire."

As the dead and wounded were taken to several of Gaza's few functioning hospitals, health officials reported a steadily rising death toll.

"Medical teams are unable to deal with the volume and type of injuries arriving at Al-Shifa Medical Complex as a result of weak medical and human capabilities," one official said in a statement.

AFP TV footage showed the corpses of two men being taken away on the back of a donkey-drawn cart.

2.4 million Palestinians in Gaza are facing an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation after nearly five months of Israeli bombardment and blockade against the strip.



15:45 Israel's planned ground assault on Rafah in the Gaza Strip would contravene the orders issued by the UN's highest court, the UN human rights chief said on Thursday.

"I fail to see how such an operation could be consistent with the binding provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice," Volker Turk told the UN Human Rights Council.

On 26 January, the ICJ in The Hague while it refrained from ordering an immediate halt to the war in Gaza said Israel must do everything to "prevent the commission of all acts within the scope" of the Genocide Convention.

The UN's top court said Israel must facilitate "urgently needed" humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory, which has been under relentless bombardment and siege since 7 October.

15:30 Israeli troops opened fire at "several people" among a crowd that surrounded aid trucks in the Gaza Strip “after feeling under threat,” an Israeli source said on Thursday, as Gaza health authorities said more than 100 people waiting for aid were killed by Israeli fire.

In a statement, the Israeli military said dozens of people were injured in pushing and trampling that occurred as they tried to take aid from the trucks. It said the incident was under review.

15:00 The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said Thursday at least 104 people were killed and more than 750 injured after Israeli soldiers opened fire on civilians gathered at an aid distribution point in the Palestinian territory.

The death toll from the "massacre" in Gaza City "rose to 104 martyrs and 760 injuries due to the bullets of the occupation forces that targeted a gathering of citizens at the Nabulsi roundabout," said ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra.

Al Jazeera network ran footage showing several bodies and injured people arriving at Al-Shifa Hospital.

Dr. Hussam Abu Safiya, the director of the Kamal Adwan Hospital, said it had received at least 10 bodies and 160 wounded people.

Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at Kamal Adwan, said medics arriving at the scene found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground. He said there were not enough ambulances to collect all the dead and wounded and that some were being brought to hospitals on donkey carts.

Dr Mohammad Salha, the acting director of the Al-Awda Hospital, said the hospital has received 90 wounded, who were transferred to Kamal Adwan, and three dead. 

“We expect a rise in the number of the killed,” he said. “Many wounded are still at the reception and the emergency room.”



13:45 Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has called for members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to be enrolled in military service as the Gaza war rages on.

"We must all bear the burden," Gallant said, addressing what has long been a divisive political issue in a country with mandatory military service for most citizens.

Since Israel was founded in 1948, Jewish men who study the Torah full-time in a yeshiva are granted an annual deferment from military service until age 26, at which point they become exempt.

But since the war on Gaza erupted, a decades-old debate around these exemptions has gained a new urgency.

On Wednesday, Gallant called for an end to the exemptions, saying he would back legislation to this effect if centrist ministers endorse it in the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

13:00 Israel hit a car used by Hezbollah in Syria, close to the Lebanese border, also striking near Damascus Thursday, a war monitor said, hours after similar attacks near the Syrian capital.

"An Israeli drone targeted a car belonging to Hezbollah in the Homs countryside near the Syrian-Lebanese border," said Rami Abdel-Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At the same time, "explosions resounded after Israeli strikes hit southwest of Damascus," said the Britain-based monitor with a network of sources inside Syria.

On Wednesday evening, Israel struck near Damascus, killing two Syrian pro-Hezbollah fighters, the observatory had said.

Last week, an Israeli strike on a truck in Syria near the Lebanese border killed two Hezbollah members, also according to the observatory.

12:00 New Zealand has issued travel bans against some “extremist Israeli settlers,” joining the US and other nations in cracking down on individuals who commit violent attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

New Zealand’s consistent position is that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are a violation of international law, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.

In the meantime, New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon announced designating all of Hamas as a terrorist entity, saying its 7 October attacks on Israel had shattered the notion that its political and military wings are separate.

11:45 Palestinian factions will meet in Moscow on Thursday to discuss forming a new government after the Palestinian Authority cabinet resigned on Monday. 

According to CNN, Hamas has not confirmed attendance, but a Russian official said "all parties" have agreed to participate.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced Monday the resignation of his government, which rules parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, citing the need for change after the Israeli war on Gaza ends.

Shtayyeh, 66, said in brief comments that "the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political measures that take into account the new reality in the Gaza Strip."

He submitted his resignation to the leader of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, President Mahmoud Abbas, 88, whose office later said he accepted it.

11:30 Reports that at least six more children have died of dehydration and malnutrition in northern Gaza are horrendous,” said UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees.

In a post on X, UNWRA said: “Unimpeded access across the Gaza Strip is needed now. An immediate ceasefire continues to be a matter of life and death.”

At least four children died at Kamal Adwan Hospital over the past few days, and two children died at the Al-Shifa Medical Complex, according to the Palestinian health ministry and a local doctor.

With aid still blocked from entering northern Gaza by Israeli forces, the World Food Program said on Tuesday that "if nothing changes, a famine is imminent."

OCHA, the UN humanitarian office, also cited projections indicating that "the entire population of the Gaza Strip faces crisis or worse levels of food insecurity."



11:15 Palestinian detainee Assef Al-Rifai, 22, has died in an Israeli prison, the Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Affairs Commission announced, bringing the total number of prisoners who have died in Israeli prisons since 7 October to 11, WAFA agency reported.

Rifai, who is originally from the village of Kafr Ain, northwest of Ramallah, was detained in 2022 and was diagnosed with cancer.

248 Palestinian prisoners have died in Israeli jails since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967.

The Prisoners Commission held Israel accountable for Rifai's death as its authorities procrastinated in providing him with proper medical treatment, which resulted in the spread of the disease in his body.

10:30 In a new Israeli massacre, at least 100 Palestinians were killed and hundreds were injured when Israeli forces opened fire towards displaced people who were waiting for the arrival of humanitarian aid trucks near Al-Nabulsi Roundabout on Al-Rashid Street, west of Gaza City, Palestinian media reported.

10:00 US intelligence officials are concerned that Israel is planning a ground incursion into Lebanon that could be launched in the late spring or early summer if diplomatic efforts fail to push Hezbollah back from the northern border with Israel, CNN reported, citing senior administration officials and officials familiar with the intelligence. 

“We are operating in the assumption that an Israeli military operation is in the coming months,” one senior Biden administration official said. “Not necessarily imminently in the next few weeks, but perhaps later this spring. An Israeli military operation is a distinct possibility.”

While the US is a key mediator in ongoing discussions over a pause in the fighting in Gaza, the Biden administration has also been leading parallel discussions with Israeli and Lebanese officials that, if successful, would create a miles-wide buffer zone inside southern Lebanon.

That deal would likely postpone an Israeli incursion, US officials believe.

There have been months of daily, deadly cross-border strikes by both Israel and Hezbollah that have displaced tens of thousands of Lebanese and Israeli residents from their homes.

09:00 The US Biden administration is exploring the possibility of airdropping aid from US military planes into Gaza as deliveries by land become increasingly difficult, four US officials told Axios.

The administration was sceptical of such an idea early in the war. Still, support for it has been growing, the official said, especially as humanitarian groups struggle to get aid to northern Gaza by land due to the security situation and the Israeli restrictions.

However, US officials admit that aid airdrops will have a limited effect since a military plane can only drop the number of supplies equivalent to that transported by one or two trucks.

Meanwhile, Canada is working to airdrop humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, a cabinet minister said Wednesday.

Canadian International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said the provision of airdrops, in partnership with like-minded countries in the region, was on the table.

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