Berliner Tageblatt - Gaza medic says 50 killed rushing to aid trucks

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Gaza medic says 50 killed rushing to aid trucks
Gaza medic says 50 killed rushing to aid trucks / Photo: © AFP

Gaza medic says 50 killed rushing to aid trucks

An emergency doctor in Gaza on Thursday said Israeli forces shot dead 50 people who rushed towards aid trucks, adding to a Palestinian toll that the health ministry said topped 30,000 in nearly five months of war.

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The Israeli army said it was checking reports of the incident, which came as aid agencies intensified warnings over Gaza's humanitarian situation, with famine threatening.

Facing what humanitarians describe as an increasingly dire situation on the ground, mediators say a truce deal between Israel and Hamas militants could be just days away.

In a reflection of increased concern at the White House, US President Joe Biden's administration is considering air-dropping aid into Gaza, US news site Axios reported early Thursday.

Amjad Aliwa, director of the emergency department of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, said "the number of martyrs rose to at least 50".

He said they died as a result of "the occupation's shooting" at the crowd as aid trucks brought desperately needed food into the city.

Earlier, the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said children have died "due to malnutrition, dehydration and widespread famine" at Al-Shifa hospital.

US Agency for International Development head Samantha Power said Israel needed to open more crossings so that "vitally needed humanitarian assistance can be dramatically surged".

On social media platform X, she called it "a matter of life and death".

Before the Gaza City incident the health ministry had reported at least 79 people killed overnight Wednesday-Thursday, pushing the war's death toll in the territory above 30,000.

World Health Organization (WFP) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged the 30,000 figure in a post on X and said: "This horrific violence and suffering must end. Ceasefire."

- Towards 'the finish line' -

The war was triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, Israeli figures show.

After the attack, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas which has ruled Gaza since 2007. Israel's military says 242 soldiers have died in Gaza since ground operations began in late October.

New Zealand on Thursday became one of the latest Western countries to designate all of Hamas as a "terrorist" entity. Wellington said the October 7 attack shattered the notion that the movement's political and military wings are separate.

Mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been seeking a six-week pause in the war.

Negotiators are hoping a truce can begin by around March 10 or 11 when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins, depending on the lunar calendar.

The proposals reportedly include the release of some Israeli hostages held in Gaza by militants in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Short of the complete withdrawal Hamas has called for, a source from the group said the deal might see Israeli forces leave "cities and populated areas", allowing the return of some displaced Palestinians and humanitarian relief.

US President Joe Biden is "pushing all of us to try to get this agreement over the finish line", Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

- Famine 'imminent' -

The United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA described the food security situation as "extremely critical across Gaza, particularly in northern Gaza."

According to WFP, no humanitarian group had been able to deliver aid to the north for more than a month. The agency accused Israel of blocking access.

"If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza," WFP's deputy executive director Carl Skau said.

Israeli officials have denied blocking supplies.

Neighbouring Jordan has already air-dropped food and other aid into Gaza, and Egypt's defence ministry released footage of a similar mission. Canada is also looking at partnering with "like-minded countries" such as Jordan to air-drop aid, Canadian media reported.

Nearly 1.5 million people trying to flee the fighting are now packed into Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where Israel is threatening to send in troops against Hamas fighters there.

"They are 30,000 martyrs. I don't know what the Jews (Israel) want from us, and why they killed this number. It is a genocide," said Jihad Salha, one of the displaced in Rafah.

Intense fighting has taken place in Khan Yunis city a few kilometres (miles) from Rafah.

On Thursday Israel's military said it had also killed militants in central Gaza as well as in Gaza City's Zeitun area.

"Three terrorists that used drones were identified entering a compound in the area, where they were eliminated" by an air strike, the military said.

While fighting continued, Muhammad Yassin, 35, battled to find flour in Zeitun.

"I found thousands of people waiting for long hours just to get a kilo or two kilos of flour," he said. "We have not eaten a loaf of bread for two months. Our children are starving."

- Meeting in Moscow -

Talk about Gaza's post-war future has intensified even as combat continues.

Israel's plans exclude any mention of the Palestinian Authority, which has partial administrative control in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. But its top ally the United States and other powers have called for a revitalised PA to take charge of the territory when the war ends.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki, whose administration resigned this week, said a "technocratic" government without Hamas was needed.

On Thursday, Palestinian factions -- including Hamas and rival Fatah -- were expected in Moscow for a meeting at Russia's invitation.

Israel says 130 hostages captured by militants remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- who leads a coalition which includes religious and ultra-nationalist parties -- has come under increasing pressure to bring the captives home.

A group of 150 Israelis started a four-day march from Reim, near the Gaza border, to Jerusalem, calling for the government to reach a deal.

In another reflection of political tensions within Israel, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called for members of the ultra-Orthodox community to be enrolled in military service.

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K.Brown--BTB