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Witnesses Describe Seeing People Shot as Israeli Soldiers Fired Toward Crowds Surging Around Aid Convoy

They went out in the thousands, camping overnight along the coastal road in the cold Gaza night — making small fires to keep warm — huddled together waiting for supplies to come so they could feed their families.

What they encountered was death and injury, as Israeli forces opened fire toward hungry, desperate Palestinians who surged forward when aid trucks finally arrived in the predawn dark on Thursday, according to three eyewitnesses and a doctor who treated the wounded.

“I saw things I never ever thought I would see,” said Mohammed Al-Sholi, who had camped out overnight for a chance at getting food for his family. “I saw people falling to the ground after being shot and others simply took the food items that were with them and continued running for their lives.”

More than 100 Palestinians were killed Thursday morning, Gazan health officials said, when Israeli forces opened fire as huge crowds of people thronged around the aid trucks.

An Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, acknowledged that Israeli troops had opened fire “when a mob moved in a manner which endangered them” without giving details. But he denied the soldiers had fired at people who were trying to get food. “We did not fire on those seeking aid, despite the accusations,” he said. Most of the deaths were caused by trampling in a stampede, Admiral Hagari said, and some people were hit by aid trucks.

The truck convoy was long and it was difficult to determine what occurred in the darkness at different locations. But Mr. Al-Sholi and two other witnesses said in telephone interviews that they saw Israeli forces firing directly at people as they tried to reach the convoy. Mr. Al-Sholi said he also saw some people hit by the trucks in the chaos. A doctor at a nearby hospital described seeing scores of people with gunshot wounds.

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