Sun 03 Mar 2024 11:56 am - Jerusalem Time

Testimony of a survivor of the aid distribution which turned into a tragedy in Gaza: “Everyone rushed to escape the bullets”

By Benjamin Delille

The Israeli army is accused of having killed numerous Palestinians during a food aid distribution on Thursday February 29. Present at the time of the events, Ahmed K. tells how he survived, but also the hunger that torments Gazans.

Thursday morning, well before dawn, Ahmed K. (1) went to the beach west of Gaza City. Like the thousands of people gathered there, he waited patiently at the edge of one of the many lit braziers to warm up in a city completely deprived of electricity. “We were expecting around thirty aid trucks,” explains in English this 37-year-old Gazan director, father of two daughters, who has been struggling to survive with his wife and parents for almost five months. “Thirty trucks of aid is not a lot,” he explains on the phone in a faint voice. But compared to the two or three that had been arriving every other day lately, that was a big improvement. There were people from all over northern and central Gaza, word of mouth is the only thing we have left.”

A few minutes later, Ahmed found himself among the bullets, without understanding why. From the top of the building where he can still get a little network, the wind blows into the receiver and fills the silences of the man who admits not knowing how he survived. According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, 115 people were killed by Israeli fire during this aid distribution which turned into a nightmare. The IDF defended itself by recognizing “limited fire” from soldiers who felt threatened, and ensured that a large proportion of those killed were killed in a stampede. The international community reacted strongly, between condemnations and demands for a “thorough investigation” by Israel’s closest allies, led by the United States. Washington also began airdrops of food packages this Saturday to respond to the risk of famine, although this remains largely insufficient.

“Snipers and tanks started shooting”

Like the UN, whose team says it noted “a large number” of gunshot wounds in a hospital in the city, Ahmed says he heard gunfire for almost two hours. Here is his testimony.

“It was a bad day. All days are bad in Gaza, but this one was something else. A bloody day. People arrived at the beach very early, thousands of people who had heard about the distribution. I arrived early. There were fires everywhere to keep warm. It was cold. The trucks arrived around 4 a.m. And we had to get closer quickly, because it was certain that there wouldn't be enough food for everyone. I was very close, to be able to feed my daughters. Otherwise there would have been no point in coming, I would have wasted my time, my energy.

“That’s when the shooting started. There were snipers and tanks who started shooting at people waiting for help. I started to see people falling around me. I saw a man get shot in the head. Another in the abdomen. A third took a gust to the legs. I was stunned, I didn't understand what was happening. I had the impression that we were surrounded. If there was a crowd movement, it was because of the shooting, because people were afraid. It’s true that everyone rushed, but it was to escape the bullets. We tried to take refuge in a destroyed building nearby with several people. Those who fled towards the beach were targeted by snipers and tanks. Everyone was surprised. We asked ourselves: “Why are they shooting? Why are they killing us?” We were just there for the food.

“I was hidden with several people. And after a while, a tank approached. He targeted us. I ran to take shelter in a stairwell. I think he shot. In any case, some of the people who were with me died. One of my friends died. I hid there for maybe thirty minutes, and the shooting never stopped. I think they shot until sunrise. I managed to escape before. As soon as there was a five-minute break, I got up and ran. It was suicide. I saw people falling around me. A man asked me for help, he was injured, but I couldn't do anything, it was too dark, there was only the light of the tanks and trucks. I got away with it like that. I think I was lucky.

“I see the future very dark”

“The next day, there were people back on the beach waiting for new trucks. Too bad if people are dead, we have no choice, we have to eat well. Anyway, every day we have to leave our house to get food, and we know that it might be our last day. If we stay at home, we will have nothing, we will die. So it’s dangerous, but everyone gets out. Hunger has become harder than bombs, harder than everything else. What do you do when your children are constantly asking you for food and you have nothing to give them? We spent ten days without leaving our house a few weeks ago, because the army had surrounded the area. We have exhausted all our reserves. We went three days without eating anything, two days without drinking. Since then, we no longer have a choice. We have to go out, despite the shooting and the very close fighting, we have to go out to find what we can. We change houses every five to ten days depending on the danger. We must have lived in fifteen different places. We're trying to survive. I do my best to protect my children. And fortunately, no one is sick.

“I am not optimistic for the future. We have lost too many loved ones, neighbors, friends, members of our family. Very often we are told that a truce is coming, and then nothing happens. People no longer listen to the news, they have lost hope. We are tired, exhausted. Personally, I did not want to evacuate to the south, to Rafah or Khan Younes, because I knew that they were going to suffer the same thing as us. They tried to convince me, but I preferred to stay with my family, in my house. And I think I made a good choice. I no longer have a home, it's hard, I'm hungry, but in the South, they suffer too, and they suffer far from everything they know. I am with my loved ones. I was able to bury my best friend near his home. He died a month ago.

“I see the future very bleak. When I look around me, all the places I knew, the people I knew, I feel like there is nothing left. Everything is destroyed. I see black, I only see black. The end of the war will simply be the end of a certain suffering, and the beginning of another. What will happen when people come back from the south and see that there is nothing left? My only hope is that my daughters go far away. For us, everything is already ruined.”


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Testimony of a survivor of the aid distribution which turned into a tragedy in Gaza: “Everyone rushed to escape the bullets”