‘Nothing like we have seen before’: medics describe Gaza injuries on UAE evacuation flight

‘Nothing like we have seen before’: medics describe Gaza injuries on UAE evacuation flight
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Etihad Airways flight turned into “flying hospital” for Gazan patients airlifted from Egypt’s Al-Arish to Abu Dhabi for further treatment. (AN Photo: Mohammed Fawzy)
‘Nothing like we have seen before’: medics describe Gaza injuries on UAE evacuation flight
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Etihad Airways flight turned into “flying hospital” for Gazan patients airlifted from Egypt’s Al-Arish to Abu Dhabi for further treatment. (AN Photo: Mohammed Fawzy)
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Updated 06 December 2023
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‘Nothing like we have seen before’: medics describe Gaza injuries on UAE evacuation flight

‘Nothing like we have seen before’: medics describe Gaza injuries on UAE evacuation flight
  • Medics reported severe burns, injuries, fractures and deformities on children’s bodies
  • Working under intense environments, UAE medics were prepared for all scenarios on evacuation flight

ABU DHABI: Nothing could have prepared Palestinian pediatric nurse Etimad Hassouna for what she saw as she aided injured Palestinian children evacuated from Gaza on a UAE mission.

Hailing from Gaza, Hassouna was among a volunteering team of about 30 medical professionals from the UAE’s Burjeel Hospital, NMC Royal Hospital and Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. The team has worked tirelessly to assist war-stricken patients in unpredictable and challenging evacuation missions that last up to 24 hours.

On an Etihad Airways flight that evacuated 120 injured Palestinians and their families on Friday following intense violence after the truce ended, Hassouna told Arab News that the injuries inflicted on Gazans are “nothing like I have ever seen before” during her 22-year professional experience.

“I saw cases of children with severe burns, injuries and fractures in an intensity I have never witnessed throughout my career in emergency departments, surgery and pediatric wards. Most of the patients coming from under the rubble are disabled for life.”

Hassouna works alongside colleagues with a diverse range of expertise to ensure injured evacuees remain in a stable condition on the “flying hospital” from Egypt’s Al-Arish until they land in Abu Dhabi for further treatment.

While the unpredictability of the situation prompts the team to be logistically prepared for all cases and act on the spot, Hassouna said that the extent of the suffering was still difficult to witness.

“It’s a mix of feelings between sadness, to see innocent children suffering on this magnitude, and happiness, to have the opportunity to help rescue them. This small contribution makes me feel I’m giving back, given that we have been feeling rather helpless,” said Hassouna, who left Gaza 30 years ago.




Etimad Hassouna aids injured Palestinian children and cancer patients evacuated from her hometown Gaza. (AN Photo: Mohammed Fawzy)

Asked how she copes with treating severe cases coming from her homeland, she said that “faith and hope” have kept her going. “The reason you go on a mission like this is the same reason you cope, especially when you are helping children.”

Hassouna, whose relatives are displaced in Gaza and living in dire conditions, said: “It hasn’t been easy, but I have to be strong for the women, children and patients.”

Some of Hassouna’s colleagues serving the UAE’s goal to evacuate 2,000 injured Palestinian children and cancer patients have experience working in war zones.

Yet, Sabreen Tawalbeh, a Jordanian nursing manager at Burjeel Medical Center in Abu Dhabi, said the team was witnessing injuries more severe than in any past Gaza conflict.

Although Tawalbeh served as part of a medical team inside Gaza during the 2014 war, she said the burns and injuries on children’s bodies resulting from Israel’s bombardment since Oct. 7 were more acute and violent.

“I received a two-year-old baby whose entire lower body was burned. The children I have dealt with had serious deformities,” said Tawalbeh, who was on her third UAE mission.

More than medical care, patients arriving with extreme shock and trauma require a hope-driven approach.

“It’s important during the evacuation to make them feel safe, given that they are moving to a new place away from the home they have never left, let alone under trauma effects.”




Serving in Gaza war 2014, Sabreen Tawalbeh says children's injuries in the ongoing war are far more severe. (AN Photo: Mohammed Fawzy)

Tawalbeh added: “We need to give them hope that their situation is temporary; that they will return home someday stronger and fully recovered.”

The medical professional, who has tended to war victims in Libya, Afghanistan and Congo, said she will never forget an 11-year-old boy who arrived as a companion to his two cousins, a 7-year-old boy with a fractured skull and a two-year-old baby. The family of the two children had been killed.

“I saw a child become a hero. He was a man who probably never got to live his childhood,” said Tawalbeh. “After serving in this field for so long, I felt I was chosen for this mission, and I love being part of helping people.

 

Constantly improving missions

UAE doctors and nurses have no knowledge of the cases they will receive beforehand, prompting them to follow a flexible plan throughout the mission. They must be prepared with all types of equipment and a range of specializations.

To increase their future preparedness, the medical staff constantly learn from the challenges of each mission and aim to improve for the next.

During the first evacuation mission, for example, the team faced difficulties moving a patient with a spinal cord injury into the plane due to a lack of equipment to prevent his neck from moving. Another mission received a far higher number of patients than expected.

“Every mission we learn something new,” said Tawalbeh.

Kenneth Charles Dittrich, a consultant emergency physician from SKMC, said that his team comprised anesthetists, respiratory technologists, administrative assistants to help with identifying people, and four nursing staff to prepare for contingencies across all ages groups.

“The evacuated patients go through multiple checks at different borders. During that time, stable people’s condition can change, and to deal with such dynamic medical conditions, we need to constantly be on our feet and serve different roles.”

The staff coordinate with the on-ground medical personnel deployed in Rafah and Al-Arish, as well as Egyptian paramedics, who provide an initial assessment of the patients and give a list of the cases coming on board.

Upon receiving patients, the UAE medics perform reassessments and develop a treatment plan to follow on the flight.

The medics also work in coordination with UAE authorities to distribute the patients to different specialist hospitals across the country.

The Emirati mission includes a range of nationalities, demonstrating their unity in supporting the humanitarian cause.




Kenneth Charles Dittrich, emergency specialist, said the key aspect of his work, especially in war zones, is to remain human. (AN Photo: Mohammed Fawzy)

Not a stranger to operating in challenging war zones throughout his 42-year career, Dittrich said that he had learned to make boundaries on the job but would allow himself to process the emotions of stress later.

He added that a key aspect of his work is to “remain human,” adding: “It’s overwhelming to think of people escaping deaths and recognizing what they have left behind.

“The first thing we would do is provide them with nutrition and hydration after long journeys with emotions and stress, and trauma.

“We are in a position to help, and that’s always a positive aspect.”


In former haven, Sudanese terrified by paramilitaries

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In former haven, Sudanese terrified by paramilitaries

In former haven, Sudanese terrified by paramilitaries
PORT SUDAN, Sudan: A communications blackout has made information scarce from Sudan’s Al-Jazira state, which paramilitaries pushed into in December, but rare interviews with residents have detailed grim conditions in the former safe haven.
One resident, who requested anonymity for their safety, told AFP that Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) shot at dozens of people in the village of Baranko last week.
The testimony adds to a litany of abuses during more than 10 months of war between Dagalo’s forces and Sudan’s army led by Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
The United Nations human rights chief on Friday said Sudanese civilians are living in “sheer terror” and both sides had consistently acted with impunity for multiple rights violations.
“On February 22, the militia fired on dozens of residents who were protesting against the arrest of several young people guarding the houses,” said the resident of Baranko, about halfway between state capital Wad Madani and Khartoum to the north.
Multiple local sources reported 18 wounded in the shooting, a few of whom managed to reach a hospital in Shendi, 250 kilometers to the north, by taking side roads.
Breaking the communications siege via a rare satellite phone call, the anonymous resident told AFP that young men have been taking turns guarding houses at night.
It is a modest attempt to protect the homes from pillage, a signature RSF tactic.
The paramilitary force is the descendant of the Janjaweed militia, which began a scorched earth campaign in Sudan’s western Darfur area more than two decades ago under strongman Omar Al-Bashir.
Washington has accused both sides of war crimes, and said the RSF also carried out ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Al-Jazira, in central Sudan, had become a refuge for those fleeing the fighting in and around the capital Khartoum.
But in December, the RSF swept into the former breadbasket and proceeded to kill and plunder, witnesses told AFP at the time.
The war has killed thousands, uprooted eight million people and led the country to the edge of famine, aid agencies have warned.
According to UN figures, nearly half a million people had sought refuge in Al-Jazira, including in Wad Madani, but the fighting eventually caught up with them there too, sending thousands fleeing again.
Then on February 7, the Internet and telephones were cut off.
Many residents hope to leave Al-Jazira for somewhere safe, but getting away is not easy, said another Al-Jazira resident, Al-Samani, who only gave his first name out of fear of reprisal.
He lives in the village of Tabet, 80 kilometers northwest of Wad Madani, and spoke to AFP during a brief window of phone signal.
Buses have either been stolen or run out of fuel in a country where service stations have not been resupplied because of closed roads or challenges moving between areas under rival control.
Even for those lucky enough to find a bus and fuel, they need funds but “leaving is difficult because you have to pay, but online payment applications are paralyzed” without Internet, said Samani.
In the past 10 months in Sudan, the economy has gone mostly virtual, after a rise in cash thefts that often ruined families.
The mobile app for the country’s main bank allows users to wire money, to collect tickets and pay for purchases in stores. But it requires an Internet connection, which is no longer functioning.
“For a week, militiamen have been attacking houses and terrorizing women to steal their gold jewelry,” an essential dowry in Sudan, Samani told AFP.
“And there is not a tractor or agricultural tool they have not looted.”
In the nearby village of Abu Adara, “five inhabitants were killed by the RSF on February 25,” a local group, known as a resistance committee, reported.
The resistance committees used to organize pro-democracy protests but now provide aid during the war.
Throughout Al-Jazira during the past week, the resistance committee recorded 86 deaths, as well as others wounded, in 53 villages hit by RSF violence.
Amid the blackout, prices are constantly rising, residents say.
One liter of fuel now costs 25,000 Sudanese pounds, or about $20.
One kilogram (2.2 pounds) of meat, once priced at 6,000 Sudanese pounds before the RSF arrived, has doubled in cost.
RSF fighters took over swathes of land in Al-Jazira, leaving farmers unable to tend their crops, and accelerating economic damage on top of the looting.
With Sudan having lost “80 percent of its income because of the war,” according to Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim, an army loyalist, imports have nearly disappeared, compounding the struggle for survival in Al-Jazira state.

Ship earlier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sinks in the Red Sea

Ship earlier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sinks in the Red Sea
Updated 02 March 2024
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Ship earlier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sinks in the Red Sea

Ship earlier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sinks in the Red Sea
  • Rubymar drifted northward after being attacked on Feb. 18 in the Bab El-Mandeb Strait
  • Yemen’s recognized government, as well as a regional military official, confirmed the ship sank

DUBAI: A ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water, officials said Saturday, the first vessel to be fully destroyed as part of their campaign over Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The sinking of the Rubymar comes as shipping through the crucial waterway for cargo and energy shipments moving from Asia and the Middle East to Europe has been affected by the Houthi attacks.

Already, many ships have turned away from the route. The sinking could see further detours and higher insurance rates put on vessels plying the waterway — potentially driving up global inflation and affecting aid shipments to the region.

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

Yemen’s internationally recognized government, as well as a regional military official, confirmed the ship sank. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as no authorization was given to speak to journalists about the incident.

The Rubymar’s Beirut-based manager could not be immediately reached for comment.

Yemen’s exiled government, which has been backed by a Saudi-led coalition since 2015, said the Rubymar sank late Friday as stormy weather took hold over the Red Sea. The vessel had been abandoned for 12 days after the attack, though plans had been made to try and tow the ship to a safe port.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who had falsely claimed the ship sank almost instantly after the attack, did not immediately acknowledge the ship’s sinking.

The US military’s Central Command previously warned the vessel’s cargo of fertilizer, as well as fuel leaking from the ship, could cause ecological damage to the Red Sea.

Satellite pictures analyzed by The Associated Press from Planet Labs PBC showed smaller boats alongside the Rubymar on Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear whose vessels those were.

The private security firm Ambrey separately reported Friday about a mysterious incident involving the Rubymar.

“A number of Yemenis were reportedly harmed during a security incident which took place” on Friday, Ambrey said. It did not elaborate on what that incident involved and no party involved in Yemen’s yearslong war claimed any new attack on the vessel.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war. Those vessels have included at least one with cargo bound for Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, and an aid ship later bound for Houthi-controlled territory.

Despite over a month of US-led airstrikes, Houthi rebels remain capable of launching significant attacks. That includes the attack on the Rubymar and the downing of an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars. The Houthis insist their attacks will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip, which have enraged the wider Arab world and seen the Houthis gain international recognition.

However, there has been a slowdown in attacks in recent days. The reason for that remains unclear.


Palestinian Authority hopes for Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan

Palestinian Authority hopes for Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan
Updated 30 min 56 sec ago
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Palestinian Authority hopes for Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan

Palestinian Authority hopes for Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan
  • Death toll in Gaza reaches 30,320 after 92 new fatalities were recorded in past 24 hours

ANKARA: The Palestinian Authority hopes a ceasefire can be agreed in the Gaza war in time for Ramadan, its foreign minister, Riyad Al-Maliki, said on Saturday.
Israel and Hamas have been negotiating through mediators over a possible ceasefire in Gaza, with the aim of halting fighting in time for Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, due to begin this year on March 10.
“We hope that we will be able to achieve a ceasefire before Ramadan, we hope to be able to achieve one today, yesterday, but we have failed,” he said at a news conference at a diplomatic forum in Antalya, Turkiye.
Egyptian security sources said on Saturday that ceasefire negotiations were due to resume in Cairo on Sunday.
Hamas, which precipitated the war in Gaza by attacking Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies, has said it will not free all its captives without a comprehensive deal to end the war.
Israel, which has assaulted the Gaza Strip, killing more than 30,000 people according to Palestinian health authorities, has said it will agree only to temporary pauses in fighting to release hostages, and will not end the war until Hamas is eradicated.
Maliki called on the international community to make more efforts for a ceasefire.
When asked about the PA’s role for the governance of Gaza after the war, Al-Maliki said: “The only legitimate authority that will operate and continue to operate Gaza is the Palestinian Administration. This is how we see the situation in post-war Gaza.”
The PA, which exercises limited self rule in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, lost control of Gaza to the Hamas militant group in 2007.
Maliki also said the PA President Mahmoud Abbas will pay a visit to Ankara on Tuesday and meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said on Saturday the wartime death toll in the Palestinian territory had reached 30,320 after 92 new fatalities were recorded in the previous 24 hours.
The ministry also said 71,533 people have been wounded in Gaza since the war broke out on October 7.


Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody

Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody
Updated 02 March 2024
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Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody

Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody
  • Six weeks in Israeli custody that included repeated beatings and interrogations
  • Rights groups accuse Israel of ‘disappearing’ Gaza Palestinians

JERUSALEM: Nabela thought the United Nations school in Gaza City was a safe haven. Then, the Israeli army arrived.
Soldiers stormed the place, ordering men to undress and hauling women to a mosque for strip searches, she said. So began six weeks in Israeli custody that she says included repeated beatings and interrogations.
“The soldiers were very harsh, they beat us and screamed at us in Hebrew,” said the 39-year-old from Gaza City, who spoke on condition that her last name not be used for fear of being arrested again. “If we raised our heads or uttered any words, they beat us on the head.”
Palestinians detained by Israeli forces in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war have alleged widespread physical abuse and neglect. It’s not known how many women or minors have been detained.
Nabela said she was shuttled between facilities inside Israel in a coed group before arriving at Damon Prison in the north, where she estimated there were at least 100 women.
Rights groups say Israel is “disappearing” Gaza Palestinians — detaining them without charge or trial and not disclosing to family or lawyers where they’re held. Israel’s prison service says all “basic rights required are fully applied by professionally trained prison guards.”
Israel declared war after Hamas-led militants killed about 1,200 people and took roughly 250 others hostage on Oct. 7.
Since then, ground troops have arrested hundreds of Palestinians to search for suspected militants and gather intelligence. Images of blindfolded men kneeling, heads bowed and hands bound, have sparked worldwide outrage. In northern Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis, troops rounded up dozens at a time from UN schools and hospitals, including medical personnel.
The military said it makes detainees undress to search for explosives, bringing detainees into Israel before releasing them back into Gaza if they’re deemed innocent.
For Nabela, that process took 47 harrowing days.
Despite Israeli evacuation orders, Nabela and her family had decided not to leave Gaza City, believing nowhere in Gaza was safe. Troops entered the school where they sheltered on Dec. 24.
“I was terrified, imagining they wanted to execute us and bury us there,” she said.
Forces separated Nabela from her 13-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and loaded her onto a truck bound for a facility in southern Israel. According to the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, or PHRI, all detainees in Gaza are first brought to the Sde Teiman military base.
“We were freezing and forced to remain on our knees on the ground,” Nabela told The Associated Press from a school-turned-shelter in Rafah where she’s staying with other recently released female detainees. “Loud music, shouting and intimidation — they wanted to humiliate us. We were handcuffed, blindfolded, and our feet were tied in chains.”
Moved between several prisons, Nabela said she was subjected to repeated strip searches and interrogations at gunpoint.
Asked about her connection to Hamas and knowledge of the militants’ extensive underground tunnel network, she maintained her innocence, telling interrogators she was a housewife and her husband worked for Hamas’ rival, the Palestinian Authority.
‘AN APPARATUS OF RETRIBUTION AND REVENGE’
One woman detained from Gaza, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of another arrest, told the AP that during a medical check before she was moved to Damon Prison, Israeli forces ordered her to kiss an Israeli flag. When she refused, a soldier grabbed her by the hair, smashing her face into a wall, she said.
In a report by PHRI, former detainees from Gaza alleged similar mistreatment.
One, whose name was redacted, said he was urinated on by guards at Ketziot Prison in southern Israel, and witnessed strip searches where guards forced naked detainees to stand close to each other and inserted search devices into their buttocks.
PHRI described Israel’s prisons, also housing Palestinians from the West Bank and east Jerusalem held on security-related charges, as “an apparatus of retribution and revenge.” It alleged the prison service and military “have been granted free rein to act however they see fit.”
At the beginning of the war, prisons entered “lockdown mode,” confining detainees to their cells for two weeks, the report said. Under wartime emergency measures, Israel’s parliament in October suspended normal cell capacity requirements. Since then, inmates have slept on mattresses in overcrowded cells.
Phone privileges have been completely suspended, the report said. At some facilities, security wings were disconnected from electricity and water, plunging detainees into darkness for most of the day and rendering showers and sinks unusable.
During eight days at an unknown facility in southern Israel, Nabela said she did not shower and had no access to menstrual pads or toiletries. Food was scarce. Once, Nabela said, guards threw down the detainees’ meals and told them to eat from the floor.
The military said each detainee receives clothing, blankets and a mattress. It denied that cells were overcrowded, saying detainees had sufficient access to toilets, food, water and medical care.
“The violent and antagonistic treatment of detainees described in the allegations is prohibited,” the military said in response to an AP request for comment. “Cases of inappropriate behavior will be dealt with.”
It referred questions about Ketziot and Damon prisons to the Israeli Prison Service, which did not comment on the allegations beyond saying it was uninvolved in the arrests and interrogation of Palestinians from Gaza.
‘UNLAWFUL COMBATANTS’
Nabela said she never spoke with a lawyer or a judge.
Under a wartime revision to Israeli law, all detainees from Gaza can be held for 45 days without charge or trial.
Designated “unlawful combatants,” they aren’t granted the same protections under international law as prisoners of war. Their appearance before a court can be delayed and access to an attorney withdrawn, according to PHRI. The Israeli rights group HaMoked said there are 600 people from Gaza held as unlawful combatants in Israeli prisons, and more could be held in military facilities.
Palestinian detainees told PHRI that adequate medical care was rare, even for those needing insulin or chemotherapy treatments.
An official document obtained by the AP, laying out operations at the Sde Teiman military medical facility, specified that unlawful combatants be treated handcuffed and blindfolded.
Medical staff’s names were kept anonymous “to maintain the safety, well-being and lives of the caregivers,” it said. It did not require patient consent for medical procedures and said confidential medical information could be passed to detention center staff.
The military said the handcuffing of detainees was “done in accordance with their assessed level of danger and medical state.” Israel’s Ministry of Health did not respond to requests for comment.
Eleven Palestinian detainees have died in Israeli custody since Oct. 7, according to the advocacy group the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, and the most recent was just this week. At least five had chronic health conditions, which PHRI says raises concerns that they died because of medical neglect.
The Israeli military said it would examine the deaths.
‘BETTER THAN GAZA’
Nabela’s fortunes improved when she arrived at Damon. There, she met Palestinian women detained from the West Bank.
She said the women were kind. She had electricity and warm showers. Her interrogator wondered aloud why Nabela was detained.
A month and a half after her arrest, a prison administrator announced Nabela would be released with about 20 other women. Israeli buses brought them to a Gaza crossing, where they made their way to UN shelters in the southern city of Rafah, full of displaced Palestinians. She cannot travel to Gaza City, where her family remains.
Nabela, her face bruised, recalled one of her final interrogations. She had begun to weep, and her interrogator told her:
“Don’t cry about it. You’re better living here than Gaza.”


Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed

Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed
Updated 02 March 2024
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Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed

Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed
  • UN officials say hunger is even worse in the north, where several hundred thousand Palestinians remain even though the area has been isolated and mostly leveled since Israeli troops launched their ground offensive there in late October

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: The head of a Gaza City hospital that treated some of the Palestinians wounded in the bloodshed surrounding an aid convoy said Friday that more than 80 percent had been struck by gunfire, suggesting there was heavy shooting by Israeli troops.
At least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others injured Thursday, according to health officials, when witnesses said nearby Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy. Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a crowd surge that started when desperate Palestinians in Gaza rushed the aid trucks. Israel said its troops fired warning shots after the crowd moved toward them in a threatening way.
Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda Hospital, told The Associated Press that of the 176 wounded brought to the facility, 142 had gunshot wounds and the other 34 showed injuries from a stampede.
He couldn’t address the cause of death of those killed, because the bodies were taken to government-run hospitals to be counted.
Dr. Husam Abu Safyia, director of Kamal Adwan Hospital, said the majority of the injured taken there had gunshot wounds in the upper part of their bodies, and many of the deaths were from gunshots to the head, neck or chest.
The bloodshed underscored how the chaos of Israel’s almost 5-month-old offensive has crippled the effort to bring aid to Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, a quarter of whom the United Nations says face starvation.
The UN and other aid groups have been pleading for safe corridors for aid convoys, saying it has become nearly impossible to deliver supplies in most of Gaza because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order, including crowds of desperate people who overwhelm aid convoys.
UN officials say hunger is even worse in the north, where several hundred thousand Palestinians remain even though the area has been isolated and mostly leveled since Israeli troops launched their ground offensive there in late October. UN agencies haven’t delivered aid to the north in more than a month because of military restrictions and lack of security, but several deliveries by other groups reached the area earlier this week.
The United Nations says a UN team that visited Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported “a large number of gunshot wounds” among the more than 200 people still being treated for injuries Friday from Thursday’s chaotic aid convoy scene.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and several European leaders have called for an independent, credible investigation into what happened.
Acknowledging the difficulty of getting aid in, United States President Joe Biden said Friday the US soon will begin airdropping assistance to Gaza and will look for other ways to get shipments in, “including possibly a marine corridor.”
The announcement came hours after a Jordanian plane over northern Gaza dropped packages attached to parachutes, including rice, flour and baby formula.
“Innocent lives are on the line, and children’s lives are on the line. We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there,” Biden said. “We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”
Aid officials have said airdrops are an incredibly expensive way of distributing assistance.
“I don’t think the airdropping of food in the Gaza Strip should be the answer today. The real answer is: Open the crossing and bring convoys and bring meaningful assistance into the Gaza Strip,” Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said Thursday.
Thursday’s convoy wasn’t organized by the UN Instead, it appeared to have been monitored by the Israeli military, which said its troops were on hand to secure it and ensure it reached northern Gaza.
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday’s convoy was also “coordinated and deconflicted with the Israeli authorities” because they control Gaza.
“We’ve been trying to do that every day,” he said. “We have not been successful every day.”
Thursday’s shooting and bloodshed raise questions about whether Israel will be able to keep order if it goes through with its postwar plans for Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put forward a plan for Israel to retain open-ended security and political control over the territory — an effective reoccupation — after Hamas is destroyed. Under the plan, Palestinians picked by Israel would administer the territory, but it’s uncertain if any would cooperate.
That would leave Israeli troops — who, throughout the war, have responded with heavy firepower when they perceive a possible threat — to oversee the population during the massive postwar humanitarian and reconstruction operation envisioned by the international community.
Israel launched its air, sea and ground offensive in Gaza in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 others. Since the assault began, 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.
Despite international calls to allow more aid in, the number of supply trucks is far less than the 500 that came in daily before the war.
The Gaza Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,228, with another 71,377 wounded. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures, but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.
Thursday’s bloodshed took place as a convoy of around 30 trucks entered Gaza City before dawn.
Many of the wounded described a scene of desperation and chaos, with people climbing on the moving trucks to get bags of flour when Israeli troops began shooting, including from a tank.
“I was holding a bag of flour on my way home. They shot me in the right foot and in the left foot. Shells were fired above our heads, gunfire,” said Sameer Salman, who was being treated in Kamal Adwan.
The Israeli military said dozens of the deaths were caused by a stampede and that some people were run over by trucks as drivers tried to get away.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson, said Israeli troops guarding the area fired shots “only toward a threat after the crowd moved toward them in a way that endangered them.” He said the troops “didn’t open fire on those seeking aid.”