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What is known about the massacre of Palestinians who were waiting for aid in Gaza

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What is known about the massacre of Palestinians who were waiting for aid in Gaza

During the night between Wednesday and Thursday, more than one hundred Palestinians were killed and more than 700 were injured in the city of Gaza, the largest in the Gaza Strip, while they were waiting to receive food from some humanitarian aid trucks. It is not known exactly what happened, also because the massacre took place when it was still dark, around 4.30 local time, 3.30 Italian.

The Gaza Ministry of Health (i.e. Hamas) accused the Israeli army of firing into the crowd, killing at least 112 Palestinian civilians. The Israeli army gave a different version: it admitted that its soldiers fired shots, but only in the air and at the legs, therefore without killing anyone, and claimed that people died because of the crowd that had been created around the aid trucks.

On Thursday afternoon the Israeli army released a video taken by a drone showing from above some moments before and after the massacre, although it did not really clarify what happened. A large crowd of hundreds of civilians is seen crowding around two humanitarian aid trucks along Gaza’s al-Rashid coastal road, trying to grab food parcels on board.

At a certain point in the video, dozens of people can be seen suddenly starting to move away from the trucks, apparently in panic, running in various directions and trying to find safety. It is not clear what caused the escape. The Israeli army’s version is that many Palestinians were trampled by the crowd or hit by the trucks themselves due to the crowd, but the poor quality of the video does not allow this reconstruction to be confirmed. In another part of the video you can see two Israeli tanks near the road, and some dead Palestinians lying on the ground not far away: also in this case it is not possible to say with certainty what caused the death of those people.

– Read also: Something is starting to happen in the Gaza negotiations

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The only other video testimony available was broadcast by the Al Jazeera channel: the video was made by a person who was near the humanitarian aid convoy when the massacre occurred, but it is very confusing and should also be taken with some caution. A large number of people can be seen gathered around the trucks, and in the background there is the sound of some gunshots, probably fired by Israeli soldiers.

Al Jazeera collected the testimonies of several people who were on site, who accused the Israeli soldiers of firing indiscriminately into the crowd. Some also spoke of an air attack carried out at the same time as the shooting. Jadallah al Shafei, director of nursing at Gaza’s al Shifa hospital, told ad Al Jazeera that “the majority of the dead and wounded have gunshot wounds and shrapnel in the head and upper body.”

A man interviewed by the news agency Associated Press, Kamel Abu Nahel, said he went to the site of the massacre early Thursday morning because he heard that aid (mainly flour) would be delivered. He said that once there the Israeli soldiers fired at the crowd for the first time, dispersing them. Shortly thereafter, Palestinian civilians would return to try to receive aid. At that point the Israeli army fired again. Nahel also said he was hit.

The journalist of Al Jazeera Ismail al-Ghoul went to the site after the massacre and collected testimonies from some people who claimed that some Israeli tanks hit the civilians after firing into the crowd, passing over the bodies of those who died and injuring dozens more. This testimony must also be taken with a grain of salt, because so far there is no other type of confirmation.

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The Israeli army clarified its version on Thursday afternoon. He said soldiers who were there to monitor the route of the trucks had fired shots into the air after some Palestinians got too close to them; then they also shot in the legs, hitting ten people in total (the severity of the wounds was not specified).

On Thursday evening, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said he was “shocked” by what happened, and that an independent investigation would be needed to clarify what caused the massacre.

Also on Thursday evening, United Nations spokesman Stéphane Dujarric made an even harsher comment, saying that «these people died because there is an ongoing conflict; these people died because humanitarian aid could not be delivered safely. […] As far as we are concerned, we do not know exactly what happened, whether people were killed due to Israeli gunfire, whether they were crushed by the crowd or whether they were hit by trucks, but these are all acts of violence in a certain sense caused by ongoing conflict.”

– Read also: The aid situation in Gaza is near collapse

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