Gaza death toll surpasses 30,000; dozens killed waiting for aid in Gaza City

President Biden acknowledges recent Palestinian food-aid deaths could complicate peace, hostage efforts

Palestinians search the rubble of their house destroyed in an overnight Israeli airstrike in east Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
1 of 6 | Palestinians search the rubble of their house destroyed in an overnight Israeli airstrike in east Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 29 (UPI) -- The death toll in Gaza passed a grim milestone on Thursday with the number of Palestinians killed climbing above 30,000, most of them women and children, health authorities said.

Also on Thursday, President Joe Biden said that dozens of Palestinians killed while waiting for food aid complicates negotiations for a cease-fire on which he earlier had been optimistic about achieving soon.


In an appearance at the White House before departing on Marine One before his trip to Texas on Thursday, Biden was asked whether he still expects a cease-fire possibly by Monday.

"Hope springs eternal," he replied.

Regarding the civilians killed by Israeli military forces while waiting for food aid in Gaza on Thursday, Biden said, "We're checking that out right now. But two -- there's two competing versions of what happened. I don't have an answer yet."


He added that he knows the mass killing will complicate cease-fire talks and hostage negotiations.

Witnesses and medics said IDF troops opened fire Thursday on the crowd of thousands of Palestinians seeking the food aid.

Israeli military action had resulted in the deaths of at least 81 people and 132 injuries in the 24-hour period to noon local time Thursday, bringing the total number killed since the Oct. 7 start of the war to 30,035 and 70,457 injured, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said in a social media update.

"A number of victims are still under the rubble and on the roads the occupation prevents the arrival of ambulance crews and civil defense teams," the ministry said.

The new high means about 1.3% of the 2.3 million population have paid with their lives for the war sparked by Hamas' brutal attack on southern Israel.

The official figures, which the World Health Organization says are reliable, do not break down the numbers between civilian deaths and fighters belonging to Hamas and other militant groups. But the Israeli military told the BBC it had killed 10,000 "terrorists."

Compared with previous U.N. data from past Gaza conflicts, the current figures "clearly show an increasing number of civilians being killed, with a higher proportion of children and women fatalities," WHO said.


The actual number of dead is likely to be much higher due to the fact many victims have yet to reach hospitals, where they would be added to the count, and thousands are unaccounted for, likely buried beneath buildings flattened by Israeli air and artillery strikes.

The news of the latest high mark in the death toll came as at least 104 people were killed and about 750 wounded Thursday after Israeli forces allegedly opened fire on Palestinians queuing for food aid near Gaza City in the north of the strip.

The attack occurred on al-Rashid Street, where people were waiting for aid trucks carrying flour to arrive.

Al Jazeera reported it had verified footage showing the bodies of dozens of killed and wounded with one of its journalists on the scene reporting that after opening fire, Israeli tanks ran over many of the dead and injured.

Israel Defense Forces said those hurt and killed were victims of "pushing and trampling" and released video of what it said was a "stampede" as people rushed food trucks. It said its troops had, however, opened fire on a crowd advancing toward its positions in a manner that "endangered" them.


Israel is warning it will proceed with a planned ground offensive against the densely populated southern city of Rafah before the March 11 start of Ramadan unless its remaining hostages are freed. About 1.4 million people are packed into the city, many of them displaced from other areas of Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said the IDF could only "finish the job" of destroying Hamas by destroying its remaining brigades holed up in Rafah, has pledged to evacuate civilians to safety beforehand -- but without stating how.

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