Guterres condemns killing of over 100 around food convoy in Gaza

by IANS |

United Nations, March 1 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday condemned the killing of more than 100 people in incidents in northern Gaza and repeated his demands for a ceasefire, his Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said.

On the day Gaza's Health Ministry announced that the death toll crossed the 30,000 mark since Israel's attacks began on October 8, 104 people were killed and more than 700 injured in the incidents around a food convoy in the Gaza City area, according to the Palestine news agency, Wafa.

The agency said that according to medical sources, Israeli troops had opened fire with heavy machine guns at people waiting for trucks laden with humanitarian assistance for distribution.

"The Secretary-General condemns the incident today in northern Gaza in which more than a hundred people were reportedly killed or injured while seeking life-saving aid," Dujarric said.

He added that Guterres "is appalled by the tragic human toll of the conflict in Gaza, in which more than 30,000 people have now reportedly been killed and more than 70,000 injured. Tragically, an unknown number of people lie under rubble".

His statement did not name Israel in the attack, and Dujarric explained to reporters that the UN did not as yet have direct knowledge of what happened, but he said that acts of violence caused the incident.

UN Human Rights High Commissioner Volker Turk called the killings in Gaza, "carnage".

"There appear to be no bounds to -- no words to capture -- the horrors that are unfolding before our eyes in Gaza," he said in Geneva at a meeting on Occupied Palestine Territories.

While denouncing the 10/7 Hamas attack on Israel as "profoundly traumatising and totally unjustifiable," he also condemned "the brutality of the Israeli response" which resulted in "the unprecedented level of killing and maiming of civilians in Gaza, including UN staff and journalists".

Turk said, "Since early October, over 100,000 people have been killed or wounded. Let me repeat that: about one in every 20 children, women, and men, are now dead or wounded."

When Israel launched its counterattack for the Hamas assault, it ordered the people in northern Gaza to move south, which most did while several Palestinians were trapped in the northern areas where Israeli troops have launched ground, air and sea attacks.

Meanwhile talking to reporters in Washington, US President Joe Biden conceded that the Thursday incidents complicated the negotiations for freeing hostages held by Hamas.

But he refused to take a stand on the incidents, saying, "We're checking that out right now. But there's two competing versions of what happened. I don't have an answer yet."

Israel said that its forces opened fire on a crowd that advanced on them menacingly, but asserted that dozens were killed in a melee by being trampled or run over by trucks.

Stung by growing opposition to Biden's support for Israel -- manifest this week by more than 100,000 protest votes in the Democratic Party primary in Michigan -- the US was recalibrating its position, renewing calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and asking Israel to be mindful of civilians.

ABC News reported that according to administration officials, the US was considering airdropping aid to Gaza.

The latest mass killings has raised the tension in region with Saudi Arabia and Jordan issuing strong condemnations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and they agreed "to press for the protection of civilians consistent with international humanitarian law," the US State Department said.

They agreed to continue "efforts to secure the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas and establish a humanitarian pause in the conflict in Gaza," the department added.

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