India expresses ‘deep shock’ at loss of lives in northern Gaza, says it is a ’cause of concern’

MEA, India, Israel Hamas war, Gaza shooting
Image Source : MEA Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal.

New Delhi: 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. This comes after Israeli troops allegedly opened fire on Palestinians waiting for aid near Gaza City, killing 112 people and wounding over 700 others.

“We are deeply shocked at the loss of lives in Northern Gaza yesterday during the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Such loss of civilian lives and the larger humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to be a cause for extreme concern. We reiterate our call for safe and timely delivery of humanitarian aid and assistance,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal.

Thursday’s incident 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.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was an “ugly massacre” by Israel, and French foreign ministry spokesperson Christophe Lemoine said Israel was responsible under international law for protecting aid distribution to civilians. Medics in Gaza said they could not cope with the flood of serious injuries, which came as the death toll in nearly five months of war passed 30,000, according to Palestinian health authorities.

What did Israel and Hamas say?

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.

The White House said Biden discussed the “tragic and alarming incident” with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, as well as ways to secure the release of Israeli hostages and a six-week ceasefire. Several countries condemned Israel over the incident and pressed for an urgent ceasefire.

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.

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)

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