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Israel faces mounting condemnation over killing of Palestinians in Gaza City aid distribution melee

Tel Aviv — China and Turkey joined Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan on Friday in condemning Israeli forces for firing on Palestinians waiting for the delivery of aid in Gaza the previous day, with its foreign ministry calling the event "yet another crime against humanity." France called for an independent investigation into the incident.

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

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Beijing was shocked and strongly condemned the killing of civilians, adding a call for "the relevant parties, especially Israel, to cease fire and end the fighting immediately, earnestly protect civilians' safety, ensure that humanitarian aid can enter, and avoid an even more serious humanitarian disaster."

Tel Aviv Rally Decries Human Cost Of Israel-Hamas War
Protesters demand a cease-fire and condemn the death of over 100 people earlier in the day as a crowd gathered in Gaza City hoping to collect food aid, during an emergency rally calling for an end to the war, the return of Israeli hostages, and a better future for Israelis and Palestinians, Feb. 29, 2024, in Tel Aviv, Israel.  Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a chaotic crush for the food aid, and that its troops only fired when they felt endangered by the crowd.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said more than 100 people were killed and at least 700 wounded, bringing the overall death toll in the Gaza Strip to more than 30,000 since Israel launched its war on Hamas nearly five months ago in response to the group's brutal terror attack on Oct. 7. That attack left about 1,200 people dead and saw Hamas take almost 250 others hostage.

Israel has responded with a blistering offensive in the Gaza Strip that has created a humanitarian catastrophe and devastation in northern areas including Gaza City, which have largely been cut off from the rest of the territory with little aid entering.

Biden says Gaza aid convoy deaths will complicate cease-fire efforts 03:59

International pressure was already mounting on Israel to reduce the number of civilian casualties as it carries on with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stated mission to "destroy Hamas" in Gaza. The pressure increased dramatically in the wake of Thursday's deadly encounter just outside Gaza City.

Pre-dawn video broadcast by the Al Jazeera network captured the moment gunfire erupted as thousands of desperate Palestinians gathered in the hope of receiving food as a rare humanitarian convoy pulled into the area.

Tracer ammunition rounds can be seen streaking across the sky in the video from the direction of an Israeli military position.

CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab reported that as the sun rose, the harrowing aftermath of the melee was laid bare. Medics say dozens were killed and hundreds injured, and doctors at Gaza City's barely functioning hospitals told CBS News the majority of the deaths were from gunshot wounds.

An image taken from drone video released by the Israel Defense Forces shows what the IDF said was a huge crowd of Palestinians rushing a convoy of aid trucks as it arrived at a distribution point near Gaza City, Feb. 29, 2024, which the military said resulted in dozens of people being killed by trampling. IDF handout

The Israel Defense Forces released a heavily edited clip of grainy drone video that shows thousands of people clamber around the aid trucks, which it said showed how many people had been killed in a stampede. But the IDF acknowledged that forces opened fire on a smaller group of people whom it said posed an "imminent threat" to the soldiers.

Asked by CBS News how that threat was defined, and whether any of the Palestinians had shot at the Israeli soldiers, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said anybody approaching the forces after being warned not to was deemed to "pose a threat."

Witnesses don't deny a desperate rush for food in the starved city, but many have said the Israeli troops opened fire quickly and without provocation.

"We ran towards the food aid," eyewitness Anwar Helewa said. "The soldiers then started firing at us, and so we left the food and ran."

What we know about Palestinians killed in Gaza while waiting for aid 06:55

Palestinian leaders have called the incident in Gaza a "heinous massacre."

President Biden has called it a "tragic and alarming" incident, and he spoke with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar again, with which the U.S. has been trying to help negotiate a new cease-fire and hostage release agreement between Israel and Hamas. Any agreement would also likely include a significant increase in the flow of aid into Gaza, where the U.N. says some 500,000 people are facing acute starvation.

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