Palestinians seeking food aid killed as Israel starves Gaza

Palestinians mourn after 112 people were killed when Israeli forces fired on people attempting to access food aid in Gaza City on 29 February.

Malik Atallah Xinhua

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said that 112 Palestinians were killed and another 760 injured after Israeli forces opened fire toward Palestinians who had gathered to receive food aid in Gaza City on Thursday.

The incident – dubbed the Flour Bag Massacre – is one of the deadliest in the past bloody four and a half months in Gaza, with the death toll climbing past 30,000 on Thursday. The actual number of fatalities since 7 October is likely significantly higher, with thousands of people missing under the rubble of destroyed buildings, and others succumbing to disease, starvation and thirst.

An engineered famine has taken hold in Gaza, with people resorting to eating wild plants with little nutritional value and animal feed to survive.

“It’s been all suffering, it’s been all horror,” Abubaker Abed, speaking from Gaza, told The Electronic Intifada livestream on Wednesday:

Hundreds of babies are born in Gaza each day, and their parents can’t find formula or afford diapers for their newborns, as Abed reported in a recent story for The Electronic Intifada.

Abed, who is immunocompromised, said that he has eaten meat probably only once since 7 October and the lack of access to the nutrition he needs has caused him to be repeatedly sick. The lack of clean water results in regular stomach pain.

With a meal typically consisting of just a piece of bread and a tomato, Abed said that he is relatively fortunate. One in four people in Gaza currently “faces catastrophic levels of food insecurity,” according to the United Nations.

Aid not reaching the north

Hunger is particularly acute in the bombed-out northern half of Gaza, including Gaza City, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians remain after Israel ordered the forced displacement of people from the area months earlier.

Palestinians in the north of Gaza are now starving as Israel has prevented the UN from delivering aid there for more than a month.

Seven children have died from starvation and dehydration at Kamal Adwan hospital in the north, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza.

Life essentials and humanitarian aid are being used as weapons of war in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, with Israel announcing on 9 October that it had cut off the supply of fuel, electricity, water and food to the territory. Only very limited amounts of aid have been allowed into Gaza since then, far less than what is needed to meet the needs of the now mostly displaced population.

In late January, the International Court of Justice ruled that there is a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza, echoing Palestinian human rights groups and several independent UN human rights experts. The court ordered Israel to halt all genocidal acts, including by taking “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance.”

“Flagrant violation”

The food aid massacre in Gaza City is a “flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and fully goes against the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures” ordering Israel to halt genocidal actions, Petra De Sutter, a deputy prime minister in Belgium, said on Thursday.

The Geneva-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that at around 4:30 am on Thursday, Israeli tanks shelled “a crowd of thousands of hungry civilians who had been waiting hours for aid trucks to arrive.”

The rights group has documented previous cases in which Israeli troops opened fire toward and killed people awaiting aid.

On Thursday, according to Euro-Med Monitor, “after the aid trucks arrived, Palestinian civilians were targeted by Israeli shelling and shooting.”

“Numerous people fell from the trucks while attempting to take a bag of flour,” the group said, “and many others were targeted while carrying a carton of canned goods or a bag of flour to feed their starving family members.”

Ismail al-Ghoul, a reporter with Al Jazeera, said that after opening fire on them, Israeli tanks ran over dead and injured people and that ambulances were unable to reach the scene because the roads are “totally destroyed.”

Many of the injured were brought to al-Shifa hospital, which is only partly functional after being raided by Israeli forces last November. With a shortage of medical staff, citizens were “left to deal with the injured and attempt to administer first aid themselves,” according to Euro-Med Monitor.

Jadallah al-Shafei, a department head at al-Shifa hospital, said that “the majority of the victims suffered gunshots and shrapnel in the head and upper parts of their bodies.”

Al-Shafei added that “they were hit by direct artillery shelling, drone missiles and gun firing.”

Videos documenting the incident show people running as shots ring out, with an Israeli tank positioned nearby. At least one victim appears to have been shot in his upper torso.

“Our children are starving”

Daniel Hagari, the chief Israeli military spokesperson, said during a press conference on Thursday night that the trucks were part of a convoy carrying aid from Egypt that was screened at the Kerem Shalom/Karem Abu Salem crossing “and then entered Gaza for distribution by private contractors.”

He claimed that tanks were present to “secure the humanitarian corridor for the aid convoy” and that troops “cautiously tried to disperse” people he described as “a mob” who rushed the trucks “with a few warning shots.”

Hagari attempted to deflect responsibility by saying that the tank commander “decided to retreat to avoid harm to the thousands of Gazans that were there” and claimed that no Israeli military strike “was conducted toward the aid convoy.”

He claimed that similar aid operations took place the previous four nights without incident.

The massacre was applauded by Israeli Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and celebrated on popular Hebrew-language Telegram channels. A majority of Jewish Israelis oppose the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

In a statement published on its Telegram channel, Hamas rejected the Israeli spokesperson’s claims as baseless lies intended “to cover up this heinous crime and to evade widespread international condemnation.”

Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, accused Israel of carrying out a premeditated massacre.

It is not clear who sent the aid trucks, with some people saying that it was a trap.

The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that Palestinians in the area “received phone calls from the Israeli army in recent days ordering them to evacuate to the central and southern parts of the Strip in order to receive food and water and avoid starvation.”

Yusri al-Ghoul, a Palestinian novelist and eyewitness to the massacre, told Al Jazeera that “there were no international or any local institutions that said that they sent aid” to Gaza City on Thursday.

He said that every day, people gather in the area near the Israeli tanks in anticipation of aid deliveries.

“We are starving, we don’t find food, even the food of animals, for about two months,” al-Ghoul said. “Our children are starving.”

“While children die from lack of food, their parents are killed trying to get it for them,” Jason Lee, Save the Children’s Palestine director, said on Thursday.

“We need a definitive ceasefire immediately,” Lee said, echoing the longstanding call from humanitarian actors operating in Gaza.




Thank you, EI, for bringing all these reports together. Please keep it going. It will be so helpful in shaming and condemning the monsters. Please explore the possibility that the so-called Israeli government is anxious to strengthen, however superficially, its claim to the fossil fuel reserves off the Palestinian coast, by simply murdering and burying every non-Jew in the Gaza Strip.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.