Wednesday, July 24

Biden Says U.S. Will Airdrop Aid Into Gaza: Israel-Hamas War Live Updates

They went out in the thousands, camping overnight along the coastal road in the cold Gaza night — making small fires to keep warm — huddled together waiting for supplies to come so they could feed their families.

What they encountered was death and injury, as Israeli forces opened fire toward hungry, desperate Palestinians who surged forward when aid trucks finally arrived in the predawn dark on Thursday, according to three eyewitnesses and a doctor who treated the wounded.

“I saw things I never ever thought I would see,” said Mohammed Al-Sholi, who had camped out overnight for a chance at getting food for his family. “I saw people falling to the ground after being shot and others simply took the food items that were with them and continued running for their lives.”

More than 100 Palestinians were killed Thursday morning, Gazan health officials said, when Israeli forces opened fire as huge crowds of people thronged around the aid trucks.

An Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, acknowledged that Israeli troops had opened fire “when a mob moved in a manner which endangered them” without giving details. But he denied the soldiers had fired at people who were trying to get food. “We did not fire on those seeking aid, despite the accusations,” he said. Most of the deaths were caused by trampling in a stampede, Admiral Hagari said, and some people were hit by aid trucks.

The truck convoy was long and it was difficult to determine what occurred in the darkness at different locations. But Mr. Al-Sholi and two other witnesses said in telephone interviews that they saw Israeli forces firing directly at people as they tried to reach the convoy. Mr. Al-Sholi said he also saw some people hit by the trucks in the chaos. A doctor at a nearby hospital described seeing scores of people with gunshot wounds.

Enormous groups of people have camped out for aid or raced to convoys in recent weeks, hoping for some deliverance from the severe hunger that has gripped northern Gaza through nearly five months of an Israeli offensive that has included intense bombardment, a siege and a ground invasion.

Mr. Al-Sholi, a 34-year-old taxi driver, said he was compelled to join the thousands of people gathered near the Nabulsi roundabout in Gaza City because he and his family, including three young children, are surviving off little but the spices, minced wheat and wild greens that they can find.

On Wednesday, he had heard that people had received bags of flour from aid trucks, and there were rumors that another convoy was coming. So on Thursday, around 7 p.m., he went to the Nabulsi roundabout with friends to wait.

He said he had never seen so many people gathered in one place. Others described tens of thousands of people waiting.

“Right before the trucks arrived, a tank started to move toward us, it was around 3:30 a.m. and fired few shots in the air,” Mr. Al-Sholi said in a phone interview. “That tank fired at least one shell. It was dark and I ran back toward a destroyed building and took shelter there.”

When the aid trucks arrived soon after, people ran toward them in desperation, and the gunfire started, the witnesses said.

“As usual, when the aid trucks arrived, people ran toward them to get food and drink and whatever else they could get,” said Mohammad Hamoudeh, a photographer in Gaza City. But when people reached the trucks, he said, “the tanks started firing directly at the people.”

He added, “I saw them firing direct machine gun fire.”

Mr. Hamoudeh said that, despite the fear and panic at the scene, many still rushed to the supplies. “People were terrified but not everyone, there were those who risked death just so they could get food,” he said. “They just want to live.”

The witnesses said that the tanks fired shells toward people even after they began to run away. They said tanks arrived between 3 and 4 a.m. and started firing regularly toward the Gazans, stopping at around 7 a.m.

The Israeli military did not respond to questions about whether Israeli tanks opened fire before or after the aid trucks arrived. Admiral Hagari said the trucks had neared Gaza City around 4:45 a.m.

Partial drone video footage released by the Israeli military, along with social media videos of the scene analyzed by The New York Times, do not fully explain the sequence of events. Videos show panic, including people ducking for cover and taking food from trucks.

Mr. Al-Sholi described chaos as he ran from the aid trucks and people around him were hit.

“I saw people falling to the ground,” Mr. Al-Sholi said. “The man next to me was shot in the arm with a bullet and lost his finger immediately.”

As he fled, he said, he saw about 30 people on the ground, either killed or wounded. One of those killed was his cousin, who was shot while running with a bag of flour, he said. About 150 meters away from one of the tanks, he recalled seeing a boy, about 12 years old, lying on the ground with his face covered with blood.

A third witness, a journalist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the Israeli military, said the Israeli fire was so intense it was difficult to get to the wounded.

None of the witnesses reported seeing people who had been trampled to death. Mr. Al-Sholi said he saw some people who had been hit by trucks. On Thursday, a doctor who went to the scene, Yehia Al Masri, said he saw dozens of people with gunshot wounds but also people who appeared to have died in a stampede or to have been hit by aid trucks.

The tanks stopped firing around 7 a.m., but they did not pull back. People started dragging or carrying the dead and wounded, saying the Muslim declaration of faith as they did so fearing the tanks would start firing again, said Mr. Hamoudeh.

About a mile away ambulances had gathered, unable to get any closer, for fear of being fired on by Israeli forces. Some people carried or brought the wounded to them on donkey carts, or took them to hospitals on their own.

Palestinians being treated at Kamal Edwan Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, on Thursday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Around 150 wounded people and 12 of those killed arrived at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, said Dr. Eid Sabbah, the head of nursing there. He said about 95 percent of the injuries were gunshot wounds in the chest and abdomen.

Many of the wounded were in critical condition and required surgery. But the hospital, like the few others still functioning in Gaza, suffered from a lack of electricity, fuel, medical equipment and medicine.

Medical staff were only able to perform 20 operations, with painkillers but without anesthesia, in their three equipped operating rooms, Dr. Sabbah said. Like food supplies, medical aid has become scarce over the last four months, leaving the few hospitals still operating struggling to treat patients beyond first aid.

Dr. Sabbah warned that many of the wounded from Thursday’s shooting could not be properly treated in their hospital.

“In the I.C.U. there are patients who need specializations and medicines and need complicated surgeries,” he said. “Their only hope is to be transferred outside of Gaza to be treated.”

Nader Ibrahim contributed reporting.