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Britain demands urgent probe into deaths of more than 100 Palestinians killed in Gaza aid convoy chaos

Britain demands urgent probe into deaths of more than 100 Palestinians killed in Gaza aid convoy chaos

Britain on Friday demanded an urgent probe into the deaths of more than 100 Palestinians killed in a crowd of people desperately trying to obtain aid from a convoy of trucks in Gaza.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron also emphasised that people must be held accountable for the fatalities.

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, he said: “The deaths of people in Gaza waiting for an aid convoy yesterday were horrific.

There must be an urgent investigation and accountability. This must not happen again.”

He also stressed: “We can’t separate what happened yesterday from the inadequate aid supplies.

“In February only half the number of trucks crossed into Gaza that did in January.

“This is simply unacceptable.”

He added: “This tragedy only serves to underscore the importance of securing an immediatehumanitarian pause. A sustained pause in the fighting is the only way to get lifesaving aid in at the scale needed and free the hostages cruelly held by Hamas.”

Israel came under pressure on Friday for a neutral probe into the deaths.

The US reportedly blocked a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel for the pre-dawn deaths in northern Gaza early on Thursday, arguing it was too early to apportion blame.

Israel denied witness accounts that its soldiers had opened fire on the civilians, insisting some died in a stampede while others were run over by reversing trucks.

But with more than 30,000 people now killed in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war began, UN Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "shocked" and said the latest killings would require an effective independent investigation.

The violence was condemned by Arab countries, and US President Joe Biden expressed concern it would make it harder to negotiate a ceasefire after this week suggesting that a humanitarian pause could come on Monday.

In Britain, senior Conservative backbench MP Tobias Ellwood said such scenes of “absolute panic” were inevitable given the paucity of aid being allowed into Gaza by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government.

“And then in that pandemonium shots were fired,” Mr Ellwood told Sky News.

“The idea that now, Netanyahu wants to then plough into Rafah (in southern Gaza) is simply wrong and he's haemorrhaging international support that was there from the very start when those barbaric attacks took place on the seventh of October.”

Israel insists it will not stop until Hamas is eradicated from Gaza and all its hostages are released after they were seized by terrorists when they killed 1,200 Israelis on October 7.

Palestinian witnesses said that Israeli troops fired on the crowd as people raced to pull food off the convoy of 30 aid trucks in Gaza City, amid warnings from foreign aid agencies of starvation and famine stalking civilians caught up in an Israeli blockade.

“We’ve been eating animal feed for two months,” said Kamel Abu Nahel, who was being treated for a gunshot wound in hospital. He said the crowd had gathered at the distribution point in the middle of the night because they heard a delivery of food was coming. A few thousands have stayed despite longstanding Israeli warnings to evacuate northern Gaza.

Mr Nahel told the Associated Press that Israeli troops opened fire as people pulled boxes of flour and canned goods off the trucks, causing the Palestinians to scatter. After the shooting stopped, people went back to the trucks, and the soldiers opened fire again, he said, adding that he was shot in the leg and fell over, and then a truck ran over his leg as it sped off.

At least 112 people were killed and more than 700 others were wounded, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, which called it a “massacre”.

However, Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said troops guarding the area only fired warning shots toward the crowd because they felt endangered.

“We didn’t open fire on those seeking aid. Contrary to the accusations, we didn’t open fire on a humanitarian aid convoy, not from the air and not from land. We secured it so it could reach northern Gaza,” he said.

The US administration has meanwhile been negotiating its own ceasefire resolution at the UN after steadfastly standing by Israel in previous votes.

US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators hope to reach an agreement before Ramadan starts around March 10. But Israel and Hamas remain far apart in their public demands.

Asked if the bloodshed in Gaza City would complicate those efforts, President Biden said: "I know it will."

He added: "Hope springs eternal. I was on the telephone with people from the region. Probably not by Monday, but I'm hopeful."

Mr Guterres complained that worsening geopolitical divides have "transformed the veto power into an effective instrument of paralysis of the action of the Security Council".

"I am totally convinced that we need a humanitarian ceasefire and we need the unconditional and immediate release of hostages and that we should have a Security Council able to achieve these objectives," the UN chief said.