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The Latest | US will airdrop aid to Gaza after Israeli forces opened fire as crowd sought food

Palestinian Muslims pray outside of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem after Israeli police denied their entry to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for Friday prayers, Friday, March 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Original Publication Date March 01, 2024 - 12:06 AM

The United States military will airdrop humanitarian assistance into Gaza, President Joe Biden announced Friday, a day after witnesses say Israeli forces shot desperately hungry Palestinians crowding around a food aid truck.

At least 115 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more wounded in Gaza City on Thursday, the Health Ministry in Gaza said.

Israel says many of the dead were trampled in a chaotic crush for the food aid, and its troops fired warning shots after the crowd moved toward them in a threatening way.

Since the war began, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies, except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.

The U.N. says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people face starvation. Aid officials have said that airdrops are not an efficient means of distributing aid and are a measure of last resort.

The number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip has soared above 30,000 since Israel’s war on Hamas began nearly five months ago, after Hamas-led militants stormed across southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 others hostage.

Currently:

— The EU says it will send funds to Gaza’s main aid provider after the U.N. agency agrees to an audit.

— Biden approves military airdrops of aid into Gaza after the chaotic encounter that left more than 100 dead.

— A Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80% of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed.

— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here's the latest:

SOME 9,000 PALESTINIAN WOMEN HAVE BEEN KILLED, UN WOMEN SAYS

UNITED NATIONS — An estimated 9,000 Palestinian women have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel, and many more are reported to be buried under the rubble, the United Nations agency promoting gender equality says.

UN Women said in a statement late Friday that, at the current rate, an average of 63 women will be killed every day the war continues. And an estimated 37 of them will be mothers who leave devastated families and children less protected, it said.

UN Women said its rapid assessment of 120 women between Feb. 8-11 found that 84% reported that their family eats half or less the amount they did before the war began. And the same percentage indicated that at least one family member had to skip meals during the previous week, the agency said.

Unless there is an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, UN Women said, many more people will die in the coming days and weeks.

UN TEAM THAT VISITED GAZA HOSPITAL REPORTED LARGE NUMBER OF GUNSHOT WOUNDS

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations says a U.N. team that visited Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported that there were “a large number of gunshot wounds” among the more than 200 people still being treated for injuries from Thursday’s deadly incident involving Palestinians seeking aid from a humanitarian convoy.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday the team reported after their visit Friday that Shifa reportedly admitted more than 700 injured people and received the bodies of more than 70 people who were killed in Thursday’s bloodshed near Gaza City.

The U.N. team met with some of the more than 200 injured Palestinians still in the hospital on Friday, and from what they saw of patients getting treatment “there was a large number of gunshot wounds,” Dujarric said.

The spokesman said he wasn’t aware that the team from the U.N. humanitarian office, World Health Organization and U.N. children’s agency UNICEF examined the bodies of those killed.

At least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others injured according to health officials when witnesses said nearby Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off the aid convoy.

Israel said its troops accompanying the convoy fired warning shots after the crowd moved toward them in a threatening way, and said many of the dead were trampled in a stampede that started when Palestinians rushed the aid trucks.

BIDEN NOW SAYS HE HOPES GAZE CEASE-FIRE DEAL CAN BE MADE BEFORE RAMADAN

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said earlier this week that a cease-fire deal could be reached by Monday. But on Friday evening, he said he still held hope a deal can be struck, but possibly before Muslims around the globe begin observing the holy month of Ramadan that is expected to begin March 10.

“I’m still hoping so,” Biden said. “We’re still working real hard at it. We’re not there yet.”

He added, “You know, it’s not over until it is over” and said that all sides have to agree on timing but that “they’re still far apart.”

BIDEN SAYS UNITED STATES WILL BEGIN AIRDROPS OF HUMANITARIAN AID TO GAZA

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Friday that the U.S. will begin air-dropping humanitarian assistance into Gaza, a day after witnesses say Israeli troops killed dozens of Palestinians as crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy.

Biden said the airdrops will begin in the “coming days,” and made the announcement while hosting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the White House.

At least 115 Palestinians were killed on Thursday and more than 750 others were injured, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a stampede linked to the chaos and that its troops fired at some in the crowd who they believed moved toward them in a threatening way.

PALESTINIAN RIVALS HAMAS AND FATAH MEET IN MOSCOW, FIRST MEETING SINCE OCT. 7

BEIRUT — Representatives of rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah met in an official capacity for the first time since Oct. 7 this week at a summit hosted by Russia, along with other Palestinian factions.

Following two days of meetings, the factions said in a joint statement Friday that they aim to hold more rounds of meetings to reach “national unity that includes all Palestinian forces and factions within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

Hamas is not part of the Fatah-dominated PLO, which has officially recognized the state of Israel. Hamas does not — although its leaders have signaled they are interested in joining the PLO, which would at least implicitly entail recognizing Israel based upon pre-1967 borders.

Hamas political official Osama Hamdan said last week that his group hopes to reach a “unified position” on future governance of the Palestinian territories with Fatah and other factions. Hamdan said Hamas supports a “Palestinian government to be formed by the factions” that would oversee post-war reconstruction and prepare for general elections in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

EGYPT'S FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS HE HOPES FOR PAUSE IN GAZA FIGHTING

ANTALYA, Turkey — Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri expressed hope for an agreement to pause fighting in Gaza that could lead to a permanent cease-fire.

Speaking at a diplomacy forum in the Turkish city of Antalya, Shoukri said it was important that a cease-fire is achieved before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin around March 10.

“We are hopeful that the areas of divergence between the two sides can be bridged and that we can reach at least a temporary cessation of hostilities to lead to a permanent one,” Shoukri said.

“If this conflict was to continue in Ramadan,” Egypt's top diplomat added, “I think this will have a very dire consequence in that the emotions will be further inflamed, the dissatisfaction of the Arab and Muslim world — not to mention, of course, the West Bank and Jerusalem — will be aggravated.”

GAZA HOSPITAL SAYS 80% OF ITS PATIENTS WOUNDED IN MELEE WERE HIT BY GUNFIRE

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — The head of a Gaza City hospital where some of the wounded from a deadly melee over an aid convoy had been taken said Friday that more than 80% had been hit by gunfire.

The remainder of the patients — 34 of 176 —were injured in a stampede triggered by the shooting, said Dr. Mohammed Salha, acting director of the Al-Awda Hospital.

At least 112 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 were wounded after huge crowds of desperate people raced to pull goods off an aid convoy Thursday, according to health officials.

Witnesses said they came under fire from nearby Israeli troops. Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a stampede linked to the chaos and that its troops only fired when they felt endangered by the crowd.

The high ratio of gunshot injuries among the wounded at Al-Awda Hospital suggests there had been heavy Israeli fire.

It was not immediately clear how many of the 112 dead had been killed by gunfire.

THE EU AGREES CONDITIONS FOR GIVING $50 MILLION TO U.N. AGENCY FOR GAZA

BRUSSELS — The European Union said Friday that it will pay 50 million euros ($54 million) to the main U.N. provider of aid in Gaza next week after the agency agreed to allow EU-appointed experts to audit the way it screens staff to identify extremists.

The UNRWA agency is reeling from allegations that 12 of its 13,000 Gaza staff members participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel. The agency fired the employees, but more than a dozen countries suspended funding worth about $450 million, almost half the budget for 2024.

The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, had been due to disburse 82 million euros ($89 million) to UNRWA on Feb. 29 but wanted the agency to accept its terms for an audit. The commission is the third biggest donor to UNRWA after the United States and Germany.

The commission said two further tranches of funding worth 16 million euros ($17.3 million) each will be given to UNRWA as it complies with the agreement.

UNRWA is on the brink of financial collapse.

TURKEY DENOUNCES ISRAELI FORCES FIRING ON PALESTINIANS WHO WERE WAITING FOR AID DELIVERY

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey denounced Israeli forces firing on Palestinians waiting for the delivery of aid as “yet another crime against humanity.”

In a statement issued late Thursday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Israel of using “starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza” and alleged that the latest event, which left more than 100 people dead, was evidence “of Israel’s intention to destroy the entire Palestinian population.”

“The entire world must realise that the atrocity in Gaza is about to become a global catastrophe with repercussions far beyond the region,” the ministry said. “We therefore call on all those with influence over the Israeli government to stop the ongoing violence in Gaza.”

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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