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Israeli firing on Palestinians waiting for food will complicate ceasefire talks: Biden | WATCH

Israeli forces allegedly opened fire on Palestinians waiting for food near Gaza City, killing 104 people and wounding 280 others, according to health officials. Gaza is witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe with thousands facing starvation and aid groups facing difficulties in providing assistance.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Updated on: February 29, 2024 23:45 IST
US, Joe Biden, Israel Hamas war
Image Source : REUTERS US President Joe Biden

Washington: US President Joe Biden on Thursday said that the US was checking reports of alleged Israeli firing on people waiting for food in Gaza and indicated that such incidents will complicate ongoing talks for a ceasefire. At least 104 Palestinians were killed after Israeli forces opened fire on people waiting for aid near Gaza City on Thursday, according to the health ministry.

"I know it will," Biden told reporters when asked whether the incident would complicate negotiations. "We're checking that out right now. There's two competing versions of what happened. I don't have an answer yet," he added. Biden also said a temporary ceasefire probably would not happen by Monday, as he had earlier predicted.

"I was on the telephone with the people in the region. Probably not by Monday but I'm hopeful," the US President said. Israel and Hamas as well as Qatari mediators all sounded notes of caution this week about progress towards a truce in Gaza, where health authorities say more than 30,000 people have been killed in Israeli attacks.

Biden discussed the "tragic and alarming incident" in northern Gaza on Thursday with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, as well as ways to secure the release of Hamas hostages and a six-week ceasefire, the White House said.

Israeli troops opened fire at 'several people' among a crowd that surrounded aid trucks in the Gaza Strip after feeling under threat, an Israeli source said on Thursday. The military later said dozens of people were hurt as a result of pushing and trampling when aid trucks arrived in northern Gaza.

Gaza City and the rest of northern Gaza have suffered widespread devastation and have been largely isolated from the rest of the territory for months, with little aid entering. Aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to deliver humanitarian assistance in most of Gaza, in part because of the crowds of desperate people who overwhelm aid convoys.

The head of Kamal Adwan Hospital in Gaza City, Hussam Abu Safieyah, said it had received 10 dead bodies and dozens of wounded patients from the incident west of the city. "We don't know how many there are in other hospitals," Safieyah told Reuters. Hamas warned in a statement that the incident could lead to the failure of talks aimed at a deal on a truce and hostage release.

Israel, Hamas differ from Biden's statement on ceasefire

Earlier, Israel and Hamas on Tuesday played down chances of an imminent breakthrough in talks for a cease-fire in Gaza. The major development came against the backdrop of US President Joe Biden claiming Israel has agreed to pause its offensive during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan if a deal is reached to release some hostages.

Talks to pause the fighting have gained momentum recently and are underway with the involvement of negotiators from the US, Egypt and Qatar. Biden said he had been briefed on the status of talks by his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, but said his comments reflected his optimism for a deal, not that all the remaining hurdles had been overcome.

“Ramadan's coming up, and there has been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said in an appearance on NBC's “Late Night With Seth Meyers” that was recorded Monday.

Israeli officials said Biden's comments came as a surprise and were not made in coordination with the country's leadership. A Hamas official played down any sense of progress, saying the group wouldn't soften its demands. Hamas official Ahmad Abdel-Hadi indicated that optimism about a deal was premature. “The resistance is not interested in giving up any of its demands, and what is proposed does not meet what it had requested,” he told the Pan-Arab TV channel Al Mayadeen.

'War crimes committed by all parties'

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.

Amid a perilous situation in the Gaza Strip caused by the Israel-Hamas war, people are resorting to firing and looting aid trucks that have complicated humanitarian deliveries in the war-torn territory. This comes at a time when a quarter of Gaza's population, approximately 576,000 people, is very close to famine and the entire population desperately needs essential supplies.

(with inputs from Reuters)

ALSO READ | Death count in Gaza crosses 30,000 as Israeli strikes kill 104 Palestinians waiting for aid


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