May 25, 2024

Israeli soldiers “fired precisely” at Gazans who approached them during a chaotic scene near an aid convoy in northern Gaza last week that led to the deaths of dozens of Palestinians, but they did not fire on the convoy itself, the Israeli military said on Friday after an initial internal review.

The account differs sharply from those of witnesses and Palestinian officials who described extensive shooting after thousands of desperate Gazans massed around an Israeli-organized aid convoy. The deaths prompted global outrage and underscored the widespread hunger and hopelessness in northern Gaza, where five months of war and little aid have driven many to the brink.

The initial review largely matched Israel’s early account of the disaster, reiterating its claim that many civilians were harmed or killed in a stampede as they crowded around the aid trucks. It said that Israeli forces had opened fire toward dozens of Gazans who had approached them.

Gazan officials did not immediately respond to the Israeli review.

The Israeli military said that its review found that the soldiers had “fired precisely” at people who were approaching them in what it said was an attempt to keep “suspects” at a distance.

“As they continued to approach, the troops fired to remove the threat,” it said in a statement summarizing the review’s findings.

Hours after the disaster, doctors in Gaza described receiving scores of casualties at hospitals in the area, many of them killed or wounded by gunfire.

A fact-finding committee appointed by the Israeli military chief of staff will continue to investigate the episode, the military said. Some human rights groups say that the Israeli military lacks independent accountability mechanisms and rarely penalizes soldiers for harming Palestinians in contested circumstances.

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