IDF vows probe of deadly Gaza aid chaos, rejects claim it deliberately hurt civilians

Spokesman says military has all material needed to complete ‘exhaustive’ investigation, and present findings; dismisses as ‘baseless’ accusations of intentional harm

This image grab from a handout video released by the Israeli army on February 29, 2024, shows what the army says are Gazans around aid trucks in Gaza City. (Israeli Army / AFP)
This image grab from a handout video released by the Israeli army on February 29, 2024, shows what the army says are Gazans around aid trucks in Gaza City. (Israeli Army / AFP)

The Israeli military on Saturday promised an exhaustive and truthful investigation into the deaths of Palestinians queuing for aid in Gaza this week, an incident that has drawn condemnations and calls for an international inquiry.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Saturday night that Israel will present its findings from Thursday’s deadly melee, during which dozens of Palestinians were killed and hundreds more wounded while swarming aid trucks in Gaza City.

Hamas accused Israeli troops of shooting at the crowd of thousands, while the IDF says many of the casualties were trampled in a chaotic crush for the food aid, and that its troops only fired at a few individuals who rushed toward them in a threatening manner.

“We are investigating this incident, we have all the footage we need to complete an exhaustive investigation and find out the truth of the facts of this incident, and we will present the findings,” Hagari said in an evening press conference.

“This was a humanitarian operation we conducted, and the claim that we intentionally struck the convoy and intentionally harmed people is baseless,” he added.

Hagari said the aid delivery Thursday was the fourth such operation in that area in Gaza City.

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari gives a statement on October 17, 2023, saying that the Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad was responsible for a rocket misfire that hit a hospital in the Gaza Strip. (Screenshot)

Some of those wounded in the debacle said Israeli forces shot at them as they rushed to get aid. Doctors at Gaza hospitals have reported to the UN that many of those injured were being treated for gunfire wounds.

The New York Times also quoted eyewitnesses claiming that Israeli tanks and other forces fired at people trying to get supplies from the convoy.

Hagari said the IDF “did not fire on those seeking aid, despite the accusations.”

The army said it did not fire at the crowd rushing the convoy and has disputed Hamas claims that more than 100 were killed, saying that the death toll was in the dozens, and that most victims were trampled or run over in the chaos, as crowds swarmed the delivery trucks.

The military acknowledged that troops did fire warning shots in the air and opened fire on several Gazans who moved toward soldiers and a tank at an IDF checkpoint, endangering troops, after they had rushed the last truck in the convoy further south.

The deadly incident was widely condemned by Arab countries and drew demands for an explanation from allies like the US, France, and Germany amid intensified calls for a probe.

US humanitarian aid airdropped by parachutes into Gaza, March 2, 2024. (Screenshot/X; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The UN Security Council issued a statement Saturday night taking “note that an Israeli investigation is underway” and expressing “deep concern” over the incident.

An Israeli official said on Thursday there had been two incidents, hundreds of meters apart. In the first, dozens were killed or injured as they tried to take aid from the trucks and were trampled or run over.

He said there was a second, subsequent incident as the trucks moved off. Some people in the crowd approached troops who felt under threat and opened fire, killing an unknown number in a “limited response,” he said.

In a briefing Thursday night, Hagari also said dozens had been trampled to death or injured in a fight to take supplies off the trucks.

He said tanks escorting the trucks had subsequently fired warning shots to disperse the crowd and backed away when events began to get out of hand.

“No IDF strike was conducted towards the aid convoy,” he said.

Speaking in English, Hagari said that troops had fired warning shots in an attempt to disperse the mob of Palestinians.

“This morning, the IDF coordinated a convoy of 38 trucks to provide additional humanitarian assistance to the residents of northern Gaza. This humanitarian aid came from Egypt, went through a security screening at the Kerem Shalom humanitarian crossing in Israel, and then entered Gaza, for distribution by private contractors,” Hagari said.

In this screen grab taken from video and released by the Israeli army on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, Palestinians surround aid trucks in northern Gaza in what officials described the day before as the first major delivery in a month. (IDF via AP)

“As these vital humanitarian supplies made their way toward Gazans in need, thousands of Gazans [rushed] the trucks, some began violently pushing and trampling other Gazans to death, looting the humanitarian supplies.”

“Here are the facts: At 4:40 a.m., the first aid truck in the humanitarian convoy started making its way through the humanitarian corridor that we were securing,” Hagari continued. “Our tanks were there to secure the humanitarian corridor for the aid convoy. Our UAVs were there in the air to give our forces a clear picture from above.”

At 4:45 a.m., a mob ambushed the aid trucks, bringing the convoy to a halt,” he said, showing a new video of the incident.

“In this video, the tanks that were there to secure the convoy saw the Gazans being trampled and cautiously tried to disperse the mob with a few warning shots,” he said. “When the hundreds became thousands and things got out of hand, the tank commander decided to retreat to avoid harm to the thousands of Gazans that were there.”

“You can see how cautious they were when they were backing up. They were backing up securely, risking their own lives, not shooting at the mob,” he continued, insisting that the army “operates according to the rules of engagement and international law.”

“No IDF strike was conducted toward the aid convoy,” Hagari said. “On the contrary, the IDF was there carrying out a humanitarian aid operation, to secure the humanitarian corridor, and allow the aid convoy to reach its distribution point, so that the humanitarian aid could reach Gazan civilians in the north who are in need.”

The US announced plans on Friday to carry out a first US military airdrop of food and supplies into Gaza in the wake of the incident and delivered on the plan Saturday, promising it was the first of many.

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