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Seven hostages held in Gaza killed due to Israeli bombardment, says Hamas

Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for Hamas' armed wing al-Qassam brigades, said a total of 70 hostages have been killed so far due to Israeli attacks on Gaza. The United States, Egypt and Qatar are negotiating a ceasefire to secure the release of more than 100 hostages held nb

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: March 02, 2024 16:23 IST
Israel Hamas war, hostages killed
Image Source : REUTERS Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza: Hamas, the Palestinian-based militant group, said at least seven hostages held in the Gaza Strip have been killed due to Israeli military strikes on the enclave. Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for Hamas' armed wing al-Qassam brigades, did not include more detail but said that at least 70 hostages have been killed due to Israel's offensive in Gaza since the war broke out.

Israeli officials have generally declined to respond to Hamas' public messaging on the hostages, casting it as psychological warfare. Israel's military campaign follows Hamas militants' killing of 1,200 people in southern Israel and the abduction of at least 250 on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies. Israel has responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to the health ministry.

Hamas at the outset of the war threatened to execute hostages in retaliation for Israeli military strikes, and Israel has accused it of having executed at least two of the dead hostages recovered by the Israeli military. Hamas reportedly still has over 100 hostages out of the nearly 250 it kidnapped on October 7, some of them being released in a week-long ceasefire.

Israel, Hamas spar over Gaza 'massacre'

Gaza health authorities accused Israeli forces of committing a "massacre" on Thursday by shooting dead more than 100 Palestinians as they waited for an aid delivery. At least 112 people were killed and more than 750 wounded in the incident near Gaza City, but Israel said the victims had been trampled or run over.

This is the biggest loss of lives in weeks, and Hamas said the incident could jeopardise talks in Qatar aimed at securing a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages. US President Joe Biden also indicated the same, saying, "I know it will" when asked if he thought it would complicate ongoing talks. However, Israel blamed most of the deaths on crowds that swarmed around aid trucks, saying victims had been trampled or run over. 

India on Friday expressed 'deep shock' over the loss of lives in northern Gaza during the delivery of humanitarian assistance, saying such loss of civilian lives and the humanitarian situation continue to be a cause of extreme concern. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was an "ugly massacre" by Israel. Hamas said the Health Ministry had presented "undeniable" evidence of "direct firing at citizens, including headshots aimed at immediate killing, in addition to the testimonies of all witnesses who confirmed being targeted with direct fire without posing any threat to the occupying army". 

However, one Israeli official said there had been two incidents, hundreds of metres apart. In the first, dozens were killed or injured as they tried to take aid from the trucks and were trampled or run over. In the second incident, some people in the crowd approached troops who felt under threat and opened fire, killing an unknown number in a "limited response".

In a later briefing, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel 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.

More than 30,000 Palestinians killed

The Palestinian health authorities said 30,035 Palestinians were now confirmed killed and more than 70,000 wounded in Israel's offensive, launched after the October 7 attack in which Israel said Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and abducted 253. Much of Gaza has been reduced to rubble and most of its 2.3 million population have been displaced from their homes at least once.

Israel has vowed to continue the war until it destroys Hamas' military and governing capabilities and returns the over 100 hostages still held by the group.  So far, intense negotiations between the US, Qatar and Egypt to broker a ceasefire have not yielded any results as the Israeli military continues its offensive ahead of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, UN human rights chief Volker Turk on Thursday said war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, calling for them to be investigated and for those responsible to be held accountable. "Clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including war crimes and possibly other crimes under international law, have been committed by all parties," Turk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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