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War on Gaza: Over 20 killed in new massacre of Palestinians waiting for aid

Israeli helicopters fired on crowd of thousands waiting to receive aid, eyewitnesses say
Dead bodies arrive at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza following an Israeli attack on people waiting to get aid (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)
By Mohammed al-Hajjar in Gaza City, occupied Palestine and Umar A Farooq in Washington and Nadda Osman in London

At least 20 Palestinians were killed and over 100 wounded by Israeli fire on Thursday evening while they were awaiting aid in northern Gaza, eyewitnesses have said.

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said that 20 dead bodies and 155 wounded people have arrived at al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza alone. It said that it is working to retrieve more dead bodies.

The ministry added that it expects the death toll to rise because of "the seriousness of the injuries" of individuals reaching Gaza's hospitals.

A journalist with Al Jazeera Arabic reported that nearly 50 Palestinians were killed. Several news outlets also reported that dozens more were wounded. MEE could not independently verify the figure.

The attack took place when an Israeli helicopter fired on a crowd of thousands of Palestinians waiting for aid at the Kuwait roundabout in Gaza City.

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Mohammed, a local resident, told Middle East Eye they typically gather in the area around sunset to collect flour for their children from the aid trucks. 

“We gathered and we were all shot at, there was no mercy,” he said.

“We were slaughtered, they killed my brother. There are over 50 people killed, all severed limbs. There was no mercy at all. It was all just for some flour.”

Palestinians wait to be seen in the al-Shifa Hospital following the attack (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)

He described bodies being taken to hospital in parts following the attack.

“We are not going to kill, we’re just going to get food for children,” he wailed, distraught.

“It was a massacre, we were slaughtered, and there was no mercy,” he added, saying his brother’s children will have no one to care or provide for them anymore. 

By the morning, Mohammed said that dogs had gathered around the dead bodies because they were not able to take them away. 

'Daily massacres'

Amjad Ahmed, a young Palestinian who was queuing up to get aid at the time of the attack, said that Israeli jets circled above them. He says that his cousin was one of those who were killed in the attack.

“Who is going to get food for the children now?” he asked, adding that white phosphorus was also used. 

According to Ahmed, the attack happened at around 9 pm but they had to wait until Friday morning to collect the bodies of the dead. 

A doctor from the emergency department at al-Shifa Hospital told MEE that most of the people who were brought to the hospital after the attack needed to be operated on.

“By three in the morning, we had around 120 people, and 25 were killed. Most of the people had been shot in the stomach and chest,” he said. 

He added that some of those had also been crushed due to chaos and the amount of people at the site. 

“We don’t have x-rays or ultrasounds at the hospital, the electricity was also cut during the night,” he added.

Dead bodies are taken to a mortuary following an Israeli attack on Palestinians waiting to get aid in Gaza (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)

Ismail Al-Thawabta, the director general of the government media office in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that "the Israeli occupation continues to commit daily massacres against those waiting for aid," in the area.

"We hold the American administration responsible for its failure to stop the genocidal war against our Palestinian people" he added.

The Palestinian foreign ministry also denounced the attack, calling it the "bloodiest massacre committed by the Israeli occupation forces against citizens at the Kuwait Roundabout," and that such attacks have been committed "almost daily before the eyes of the international community".

A spokesperson for the ministry added that "the massacres are committed in broad daylight and are documented and do not require any investigations to prove their ugliness and the perpetrators".

In video footage of the attack shared online, bags of flour can be seen stained by the blood of those killed.

An eyewitness who was queuing up to get flour told Al Jazeera Arabic that the attack “hardly left anyone alive” and the bag of flour that he was holding belonged to someone who was killed.

“A soul has been killed just for a bag of flour… the blood on the bag is from a man who was killed,” he said.

'A soul has been killed just for a bag of flour… the blood on the bag is from a man who was killed'

- Eyewitness

Wael Al-Mamlouk, who was also at the scene of the attack, told MEE that it was an “unjust crime".

“These are the martyrs who were just going to get bread, enough injustice. There are tanks, guns, and helicopters, if this is what it takes to get aid, then stop it,” he told MEE.

“Every day there are massacres, we break our fast with a piece of bread, it’s enough… no one speaks to the Israelis. Where are the Arabs and human rights? We have no one but God,” he added.

The attack was condemned by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, which warned that Israel was "escalating the killing of Palestinian civilians" trying to seek humanitarian assistance amid rising levels of famine and disease in Gaza.

'Flour massacre'

The attack on Thursday was the latest of several Israeli attacks on aid-seeking Palestinians that have taken place in the past few weeks and comes as the humanitarian situation further deteriorates in northern Gaza, where aid access has been limited.

Late last month, Israeli forces fired at a crowd of Palestinians gathered at al-Rasheed Street in Gaza City, while waiting for aid to be distributed.

The incident, dubbed the "flour massacre", as the residents were awaiting a shipment of flour, killed more than 100 Palestinians and was widely condemned by aid groups, the UN, and several countries.

Israel has killed over 400 people waiting for aid in Gaza
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Thursday's attack also comes days after the Israeli military bombed a food distribution centre in Rafah, killing several including a staff member of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (Unwra).

The Gaza government media office said in a statement on Tuesday that more than 400 people had so far been killed by Israeli attacks on people seeking aid.

The shootings also come as northern Gaza continues to be isolated from humanitarian aid by Israeli forces. The US, France, Jordan, and other countries have participated in missions to airdrop aid into the enclave.

But Palestinians have criticised those efforts for only providing a tiny amount of the aid that could enter if Israel were to open its crossings into Gaza.

More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war on 7 October, while 70,000 have been wounded. The UN announced on Saturday that 80 percent of Gaza is now uninhabitable, while the hunger rate stands at 100 percent.

At least 25 people have died from malnutrition and dehydration since the start of the war, including a 10-year-old child with cerebral palsy. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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