Israel accused of opening fire on Gaza civilians waiting for food as Hamas says war death toll over 30,000 people

Tel Aviv — Witnesses and medics said Israeli forces opened fire Thursday on thousands of Palestinians who had gathered in an open area of Gaza City hoping to receive food and other desperately needed humanitarian aid. Hamas, which controlled the Gaza Strip for almost two decades before it sparked the current war with its Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel, said Israeli forces “targeted a gathering of thousands of citizens while they were waiting to receive food aid,” killing dozens and leaving hundreds more wounded.

The Israel Defense Forces said, however, that the casualties were the result of “a violent gathering of Gazan residents” around aid trucks, and dozens of people were “injured as a result of being crushed and trampled.” The IDF said the incident was under review.

The head of one hospital in the decimated Palestinian territory said at least 10 bodies were brought in from the scene, along with dozens of wounded.

Palestinians receive medical care at Kamal Edwan Hospital in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, Feb. 29, 2024, after Israeli soldiers allegedly opened fire at Gaza residents who rushed toward trucks loaded with humanitarian aid.

AFP via Getty

“We don’t know how many there are in other hospitals,” the Reuters news agency quoted the Kamal Adwan hospital’s manager Hussam Abu Safieyah as saying.

At Gaza City’s biggest hospital, Al Shifa, which was already barely functioning, doctors were struggling to cope with large numbers of wounded coming through the door.

Gaza City, where Hamas had its headquarters, was an early focus of the IDF’s offensive against the group. Much of the fighting and bombardment has shifted further south, however, ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, right on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.

Israel has been warned by the U.S. not to launch that incursion without a credible plan to evacuate the roughly 1.5 million Palestinians who’ve poured into Rafah from across Gaza since the war began. But with fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants continuing and Israel still hammering locations across Gaza with missiles and artillery, the death toll has climbed steadily.

Families destroyed as Gaza death toll reportedly tops 30,000

According to the enclave’s Hamas-run Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties, as of Thursday at least 30,035 people have been killed in Gaza since the war started, and more than 70,400 others injured.

In the central city of Dier El Balah, an Israeli attack on a crowded building very nearly killed an entire extended family earlier this week — 36 people in all — according to survivors who spoke with CBS News.

Rajaa Hamad, at right, stands next to the hospital bed of her nephew, Mohammad Hamad, 9, who was the only member of his immediate family to escape from the wreckage of their home after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza, Feb. 28, 2024.

CBS News

Mohammad Hamad, 9, was the only member of his immediate family to escape from the wreckage of their home. He keeps telling his aunt, who also survived the strike, that all he wants is to see his mother’s face again.

Rajaa Hamad told CBS News that her nephew “had seen horror in that half an hour. He said it [debris] was raining down on him and he was under the rubble and was in pain, but he wanted to live, because his mother asked him to one day become a doctor.”

She said the young boy was “tired mentally, and he asks for his mother every day… the Israelis took his family away from him, the entire family.”

Mohammad Hamad, 9, cries in a hospital bed in Deir al-Balah, northern Gaza, Feb. 28, 2024, after being the only member of his immediate family to survive an Israeli strike that hit their home several miles further north in Neseirat.

CBS News

Hamad said her nephew had two uncles living outside of Gaza who want to help look after him, but she feared there was no way for her to get him out of the territory.

Amid the unrelenting violence and increasing scenes of starvation, negotiations in Qatar between Israel and Hamas over a new cease-fire and hostage release agreement continue, but there has been no breakthrough despite mounting pressure from the Biden administration for a deal.

“We have to do everything in our power,” Meerav Ben Ari, an Israeli opposition politician, told CBS News. “Everything.”

Ben Ari said the next week or so would be crucial in the talks. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts on March 10, and she said if a deal isn’t in place before then, it could inflame tensions not only in Israel, Gaza and the occupied West Bank, but across the Middle East.

Israel signals hostage deal with Hamas not imminent


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