Israel’s Flour Massacre in Gaza Is a Horrific War Crime

Continuing the relentless assault on civilians in Gaza, Israeli troops killed more than 100 starving Palestinians waiting for flour from aid trucks yesterday. Emboldened by US complicity, Israel persists in acting with impunity in Gaza.

Palestinians mourn following an early morning incident when residents rushed toward aid trucks in Gaza City and were met with Israeli gunfire on February 29, 2024. (AFP via Getty Images)

On Thursday at dawn, Israeli troops unleashed a barrage of gunfire on a crowd of starving Palestinians waiting for aid trucks in Gaza City, killing over one hundred people and wounding more than one thousand others. The death toll is expected to rise as most hospitals in Gaza have ceased operating, having run out of fuel, medicine, and blood.

Footage shows Israeli soldiers firing indiscriminately at thousands of civilians who gathered at al-Nabulsi roundabout at al-Rasheed Street to receive flour from aid trucks. Medical sources report that most victims were shot directly in the head, chest, or stomach. Jadallah al-Shafei, the nursing director at al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza, told Al Jazeera: “All injuries result from gunfire and artillery shells; [Israeli] claims of a stampede are entirely fabricated.”

Israeli tanks ran over dead and wounded bodies. Many victims were brought to hospitals in donkey carts, as ambulances could not reach the scene to collect all the dead and wounded.

The scene resembled a slaughterhouse. Most of the victims were children. A heartbroken mother was heard screaming through the crowds: “My girl is gone; she’s been starving for seven days.” A woman at Kamal Adwan hospital was pleading with the world: “We are under siege. Take pity on us. Ramadan is coming soon. People should look at us. Pity us.”

The massacre is a war crime on top of a war crime, as Israel slaughtered Palestinian civilians whom it has been starving for months, and whose only crime was queuing up to receive flour for their families. Palestinian officials have described the carnage as a “cold-blooded massacre.” Palestinians have dubbed it the Flour Massacre — or perhaps more fittingly, the Red Flour Massacre, in reference to the bloodstained flour left scattered on the ground.

The UN Security Council has convened an emergency meeting. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) chief described “another day from hell” in Gaza, while UN aid chief, Martin Griffiths, lamented the “life draining out of Gaza at terrifying speed.” Following the massacre, Colombian president Petro Gustavo has suspended arms purchases from Israel, saying: “The whole world should blockade [Benjamin] Netanyahu.”

Meanwhile, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, hailed the soldiers who committed the massacre as “heroes,” pledging total support for Israeli troops in Gaza. Using US-made drones, Israeli forces recorded the carnage from the air for fun. Israeli Telegram channels have celebrated the massacre of starving Palestinians, cheering the prospect of cannibalism. Many Israelis have been advocating for starving Palestinians in Gaza.

The Palestinian death toll has now surpassed thirty thousand, most of them women and children. Over seventy thousand people have been wounded. Nearly two million civilians have been displaced. Half of the population are starving. Several hundred thousand Palestinians are believed to remain in northern Gaza despite Israeli orders to evacuate the area; many have been reduced to eating animal fodder for survival. Footage of bone-thin children vomiting animal food and then dying has shocked observers. Gaza doctors have been warning that growing famine in Gaza is “turning children into skeletons.”

The world is witnessing the brutal dehumanization of an entire people unfold in broad daylight, as thousands of starving Palestinians have been crowding daily along the Gaza beach, waving desperately for aid planes as they air-drop food far and deep into the sea.

International organizations are acting helpless. Aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to deliver humanitarian aid in Gaza because of the presence of the Israeli military. Early this month, the World Food Program announced that it was pausing deliveries to the North because of the growing chaos and relentless bombing, despite having warned that “famine is imminent.”

For nearly five months, and despite international appeals to allow aid into Gaza, Israel has deprived the besieged Strip of food, water, and medicine. It has sealed the Rafah Crossing with Egypt, while Israeli settlers and soldiers continue to block aid trucks at Israel’s Kerem Shalom border crossing. Meanwhile, crowds of Israeli settlers, who have been demanding to be allowed to resettle Gaza, have breached the Erez Crossing near the border wall with Gaza in an attempt to build settlements on the ruins of displaced Palestinians.

Paying lip service to Palestinian lives, US president Joe Biden has said that killing more than one hundred Palestinians near aid trucks will complicate cease-fire talks. But the truth is that the Biden administration has itself to blame for these atrocities, having vetoed three UN resolutions calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, while deploying US Air Force teams to Israel to assist in its war crimes and genocide in Gaza.

The United States has also been a partner in starving Palestinians in Gaza, which constitutes a war crime, a crime against humanity, and an act of genocide. The Biden administration continues to halt aid to UNRWA, even as US officials have been warning that Gaza is “turning into Mogadishu.” Acting helpless before Israel, the United States is now exploring the possibility of “air-dropping” food from US military planes into Gaza — rather than attempting to stop the assault that makes those airdrops necessary.

The Rasheed Street massacre underscores Israel’s flagrant mockery of international justice. It comes one month after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to stop its “plausible genocide” in Gaza. It comes barely one day after the European Parliament called for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

Emboldened by US complicity, Israel continues to act with impunity in Gaza, in a blatant violation of international laws and norms. But as Israel continues to enjoy the unconditional support of the Biden administration, it’s hard to see why it should stop massacring Palestinians.