Gaza: Israeli forces kill 100 waiting for aid, ultra-Orthodox Jews in line for draft

Gaza: Israeli forces kill 100 waiting for aid, ultra-Orthodox Jews in line for draft

Israeli attack kills people waiting for aid

Israeli troops fired on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza City on Thursday, witnesses said. More than 100 people were killed, bringing the death toll since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000, according to health officials.

Hospital officials initially reported an Israeli strike on the crowd, but witnesses later said Israeli troops opened fire as people pulled flour and canned goods off of trucks.

Israeli officials acknowledged that troops opened fire, saying they did so after the crowd approached in a threatening way. The officials insisted on anonymity to give details about what happened, after the military said in a statement that “dozens were killed and injured from pushing, trampling and being run over by the trucks.”

After the strike, Gaza’s Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war in the territory had climbed to 30,035, with another 70,457 wounded.

Most of those killed have been women and children.

The ministry's count does not distinguish between fighters and non-combatants.

Israel claims it has killed 10,000 militants, but has offered no evidence.

Impossible to aid Palestinians amid unrelenting conflict - UN

The United Nations has said it is almost impossible to assist Gaza's 2.3 million people due to the ongoing violence.

It made the comments in response to recent Israeli claims that the international organisation itself is failing to deliver much-needed food, water and medicine to civilians in the embattled enclave.

On Wednesday, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters a breakdown of law and order in Gaza and “insufficient coordination” with Israel on security was putting the lives of humanitarian workers at risk.

“That’s why we’ve repeatedly asked for a humanitarian ceasefire,” he said.

UN officials say Israeli airstrikes have targetted police officers guarding aid trucks, exposing them to looting by desperate civilians and criminal gangs.

Drivers have been shot at, attacked with axes and box cutters, and had their windows smashed, said UN humanitarian coordinator James McGoldrick in February.

FILE - Palestinians loot a humanitarian aid truck as it crossed into the Gaza Strip in Rafah, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023
FILE - Palestinians loot a humanitarian aid truck as it crossed into the Gaza Strip in Rafah, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023 - Fatima Shbair/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

Israeli forces have also reportedly fired on UN aid convoys carrying vital food supplies in central Gaza.

Israel’s deputy UN ambassador Brett Miller on Tuesday blamed the UN for refusing to deliver aid to northern Gaza and shifting the blame onto his country

At least one-quarter of Gaza’s population - 576,000 people - is one step away from famine and virtually the entire population needs food, according to the UN.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews eyed in new military draft law

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has urged his government to come up with a new draft law that would force ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the military, claiming the war in Gaza leaves the country with “no other choice.”

Military service is compulsory for Jewish males, but politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties have won exemptions for their communities to allow men to pursue religious education. This has caused resentment and anger in some quarters.

“The Torah has protected Judaism for 2,500 years; however, without our physical existence, there’s no spiritual existence,” Gallant said Wednesday evening.

“Every sector of the country needs to work together to protect our home,” he continued.

Gallant said he would also extend the enlistment and reserve duty requirements for the military as well.

There are approximately 60,000 ultra-Orthodox males of military age currently not serving in the military, according to Hiddush, an organisation that promotes religious equality. Israel mobilised some 300,000 reservists after Hamas' 7 October attack.

Ultra-Orthodox parties - a key coalition partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - want to maintain exemptions.

In the past, attempts to overhaul the draft law to include the ultra-Orthodox have drawn tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox to the streets in large, violent protests that blocked major roadways.

Aid workers face deportation from Israel

Dozens of humanitarian staff have been forced to leave Israel and Palestinian territories, according to a group representing aid agencies

The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) said Israel has stopped granting visas for international workers in humanitarian organisations, hampering efforts to get food and other vital supplies into Gaza.

Others - including the key figures within aid organisations - are overstaying their visas and risk deportation to continue working.

Emergency response teams, experienced in working with Gaza, have been especially impacted, said Faris Arouri, AIDA director.

A Red Cross vehicle carrying Israeli hostages drives by at the Gaza Strip crossing into Egypt in Rafah on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023.
A Red Cross vehicle carrying Israeli hostages drives by at the Gaza Strip crossing into Egypt in Rafah on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. - Fatima Shbair/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

Israel's visa block means aid groups have not been able to bring any experts into Jerusalem, where aid to Gaza is coordinated.

“We are being forced to advocate just to let staff come to Jerusalem,” Arouri said, adding that the visa freeze was unprecedented.

“There have always been ups and downs, especially since the second intifada [from 2000 to 2005]. There were phases where there were some restrictions or where access was harder. But never on this scale.”

More than 150 jobs were affected, Arouri said.

Nearly 100 visas of staff had already experienced or would do so within weeks, he detailed, adding that humanitarian organisations were unable to recruit the staff needed to scale up operations, as the situation in Gaza grows increasingly dire.