US drops aid over Gaza as world leaders call for action over killing of Palestinians at relief convoy

UN team saw ‘large number of gunshot wounds’ among Gaza food-aid injured

World leaders have called for an investigation and a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war after more than 100 Palestinians trying to reach a relief convoy near Gaza City early on Thursday were killed as Israeli troops opened fire.

The Israeli military said thousands of Palestinians surrounded the convoy of trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some who were run over. On Saturday it said it would investigate the deaths.

Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health ministry called it a “massacre” and said 115 people were killed and more than 750 were injured.

A United Nations team that visited some of the wounded in Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital on Friday saw a “large number of gunshot wounds”, said a spokesperson for the UN secretary general, António Guterres.


The hospital received 70 of the dead and treated more than 700 injured, of whom about 200 were still there during the team’s visit, the spokesperson said.

Many of the Palestinians killed or wounded in the chaos as they tried to get bags of flour from the aid convoy were hit by Israeli army fire, the European Union’s diplomatic service has said.

Israel said most victims were trampled or run over as crowds swarmed aid trucks. An Israeli official also said troops had “in a limited response” later fired on crowds they felt had posed a threat.

“We are investigating this incident, we have all the documentation that we need in order to carry out an exhaustive, truthful investigation into the facts of this incident and we will present our findings,” spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

“It was a humanitarian operation we were running and the claim that we deliberately attacked the convoy and deliberately harmed people is completely baseless,” Hagari said. He added that it was the fourth such operation in that area.

Although the accounts of what happened differed sharply, the incident has underscored the collapse of orderly aid deliveries in areas of Gaza occupied by Israeli forces, with no administration in place and the main UN agency Umrwa hamstrung by an inquiry into alleged links with Hamas.

The European External Action Service urged an international investigation, as outrage rises over the desperation of hundreds of thousands struggling to survive in northern Gaza after nearly five months of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

US president Joe Biden said he was “hoping” for an Israel-Hamas ceasefire deal by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – which will start on March 10th or 11th – but that agreement was still not sealed.

“I’m hoping so, we’re still working real hard on it,” he said in Washington of a deal. “We’re not there yet.”

US military C-130 cargo planes have dropped food and aid in pallets over Gaza, officials have said.

Three aircraft dropped 66 bundles containing about 38,000 meals into Gaza earlier today, according to two US officials.

The air drop is expected to be the first of many announced by Mr Biden on Friday. The aid will be co-ordinated with Jordan, which has also conducted airdrops to deliver food to Gaza.

Since the war began on October 7th, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies, except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.

The United Nations says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people face starvation. Aid officials have said that airdrops are not an efficient means of distributing aid and are a measure of last resort.

An Israeli drone strike killed three Hizbullah fighters in south Lebanon on Saturday, reports Reuters. The men were killed when the car they were in was targeted on a coastal road near the town of Naqoura, security sources said.

At least 30,228 Palestinians have been killed and 71,377 injured in Israel’s military offensive in Gaza since October 7th, the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry has said.

Elsewhere, officials said a ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water.

It marks the first ship sunk by the Houthis amid their months-long attacks on shipping in the vital waterway.

The Belize-flagged Rubymar had been drifting northward after being struck by a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile on February 18th in the Bab el-Mandeb strait, a crucial waterway linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Since mid-November, the Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group backed by Iran, have launched dozens of attacks on ships sailing through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, a crucial shipping route through which 12 per cent of world trade passes. – Agencies