France calls for independent probe into Gaza aid delivery deaths

France France calls for independent probe into Gaza aid delivery deaths
MAR 1, 2024 LISTEN

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday condemned the killing of dozens of Palestinians during an aid delivery in the northern Gaza Strip. Amid conflicting reports surrounding the incident, France has called for an independent probe.

The Hamas-run health ministry condemned what it called a "massacre" in Gaza City in which 112 people were killed and more than 750 others wounded.

The Israeli military said a "stampede" occurred when thousands of desperate Gazans surrounded a convoy of 38 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some who were run over by the lorries.

An Israeli source acknowledged troops had opened fire on the crowd, believing it "posed a threat".

Writing on social media platform X, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his "strongest condemnation" of the killings.

"Deep indignation at the images coming from Gaza where civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers," Macron wrote, calling for "truth, justice, and respect for international law."

France's foreign ministry said "the fire by Israeli soldiers against civilians trying to access food is unjustifiable".

"We will ask for explanations, and there will have to be an independent probe to determine what happened," France's Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné told the France Inter broadcaster on Friday.

Thursday's incident added to a Palestinian death toll from the Israel - Hamas conflict which the Gaza health ministry said had topped 30,000, mainly women and children.

Conflicting reports

 However, there were conflicting reports on what exactly unfolded in the hours before dawn on Thursday.

A witness in Gaza City, declining to be named for safety reasons, said the violence unfolded when thousands of people rushed towards aid trucks at the city's western Nabulsi roundabout, with soldiers firing at the crowd "as people came too close" to tanks.

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said the military had fired "a few warning shots" to try to disperse a crowd that had "ambushed" the aid trucks.

When the crowd got too big, he said the convoy tried to retreat and "the unfortunate incident resulted in dozens of Gazans killed and injured".

Aerial images released by the Israeli army showed what it said were scores of Gazans surrounding aid trucks in Gaza City.

Ali Awad Ashqir, who said he had gone to get some food for his starving family, told French news agency AFP he had been waiting for two hours when trucks began to arrive.

"The moment they arrived, the occupation army fired artillery shells and guns," he said.

Army spokesman Hagari later denied Israeli forces carried out any shelling or strikes at the time.

Reactions worldwide

Meanwhile, reactions to the deaths have poured in from around the world.

European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell called the deaths of Palestinians "totally unacceptable".

"I am horrified by news of yet another carnage among civilians in Gaza desperate for humanitarian aid," he said on social media platform X. 

Many countries condemned the violence including Italy, Spain, Turkey, Qatar, Saudia Arabia and even China. 

"We express our grief for the victims and our sympathies for the injured," China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said.

US President Joe Biden said Washington was checking "two competing versions" of the incident, while a State Department spokesman said the United States had been in touch with Israel and was "pressing for answers" on what happened.

The shooting incident would complicate efforts to broker a truce, Biden said, later admitting that any deal was unlikely to happen by Monday – the timeline that he had predicted earlier this week.

The US president spoke with Qatari and Egyptian leaders in separate phone calls, the White House said, saying he discussed both the ceasefire and the "tragic and alarming" aid incident.

(with AFP)