• World
  • Israel-Hamas War

How World Leaders Have Reacted to the Deaths of People In Gaza Waiting For an Aid Convoy

7 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

World leaders are putting pressure on Israel to allow in more humanitarian aid to Gaza, with some turning to their own efforts to do so, after at least 110 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more injured trying to get aid this week, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.  

Witnesses said Israeli troops fired on the crowd as people rushed to take food aid off trucks in Gaza City on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. This was echoed by Hamas on its Telegram channel.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said "thousands of Gazans" had "descended upon the trucks" with some "violently pushing and even trampling other Gazans to death, looting the humanitarian supplies" resulting in "dozens of Gazans killed and injured." The IDF said its troops fired warning shots in a bid to disperse the crowds. 

A doctor at a nearby hospital told the AP that more than 80% of the injured victims he treated were struck by gunfire. He couldn’t speak to the cause of deaths, as the bodies were taken to other hospitals. 

The incident comes after the World Food Programme announced it had stopped food deliveries to north Gaza on Feb. 20 because it was too unsafe, even though needs are more acute than ever. 

Earlier this week, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry reported that more than 30,000 people, most women and children, have been killed by Israel’s military assault in response to Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7. Others are at risk of starvation, with the U.N. reporting Friday that 10 children have been officially registered in hospitals as having starved to death.

Israel’s humanitarian aid arm COGAT said on X (formerly Twitter) after the incident that Israel Defense Forces “will continue to assist in the transfer and coordination of humanitarian aid.” 

Here’s what world leaders have said in the wake of the incident.

U.S. President Joe Biden 

President Joe Biden responded to the deaths by approving airdrops of humanitarian aid into Gaza on Friday.

“In the coming days we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others who are providing airdrops of additional food and supplies” and will "seek to open up other avenues in, including possibly a marine corridor,” Biden said. “Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough…Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line. We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there. We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the aid airdrops are complicated operations that will only supplement ground deliveries. 

Aid organizations stressed more help must be delivered over land, with the International Rescue Committee saying in a statement emailed to TIME on Friday that "airdrops do not and cannot substitute for humanitarian access” and calling for a sustained ceasefire.

More from TIME

Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS)

The EEAS, the Diplomatic Service of the European Union, said in a statement Saturday that “many” of the dead and injured Thursday were “victims of the Israeli army fire during the ensuing stampede. The firing by Israeli soldiers against civilians trying to access foodstuff is unjustifiable." 

The agency called for an impartial international investigation. "The responsibility for this incident lays on the restrictions imposed by the Israeli army and obstructions by violent extremist[s] to the supply of humanitarian aid," the statement read.

IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said in a video statement posted to X on Sunday that according to its initial review, “no strike was carried out by the IDF toward the aid convoy.” He said that “most Palestinians were killed or injured as a result of the stampede.” Hagari added that “following the warning shots fired to disperse the stampede…several looters approached our forces and posed an immediate threat to them” and “the soldiers responded towards several individuals.” The IDF opened an inquiry to examine the incident further, he said. 

U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron 

On Friday, U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a press release: “The deaths of people in Gaza waiting for an aid convoy yesterday were horrific. There must be an urgent investigation and accountability. This must not happen again.”

Cameron said the incident couldn’t be separated from “inadequate aid supplies,” reporting that in February only half the number of trucks crossed into Gaza as in January. “This is simply unacceptable.” 

“Israel has an obligation to ensure that significantly more humanitarian aid reaches the people of Gaza,” Cameron said, adding that Israel must urgently open more crossings into Gaza, eliminate bureaucratic obstacles, enable aid operations, and ensure there are mechanisms in place to protect civilians, NGOs, medics and those providing aid. 

Cameron said the incident underscores the importance of securing “an immediate humanitarian pause. A sustained pause in the fighting is the only way to get lifesaving aid in at the scale needed and free the hostages cruelly held by Hamas.” 

Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs 

Qatar, which helped mediate a previous temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and has continued to broker negotiations between the two warring parties, said in a statement on X that it condemned in strongest terms what it called a “heinous massacre.”

The ministry stressed “the need for the international community to shoulder its moral and legal responsibilities to oblige the Israeli occupation to comply with international law and international humanitarian law” and urged international action to end the fighting and address the “catastrophic humanitarian situation” in Gaza.  

Jordan Foreign Ministry

The Foreign Ministry of Jordan, which had already been airdropping aid into Gaza with France, released a statement condemning Israel for a “brutal targeting” of civilians. Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Safadi posted on X that the incident demands United Nations Security Council sanctions.

Canada Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly

Mélanie Joly told reporters on Thursday that the deaths were a “nightmare” and called for an end to fighting in Gaza, Reuters reported. "We need to make sure that international aid is sent into Gaza and that people are protected when they go and get that aid."

French President Emmanuel Macron 

Emmanuel Macron, who called for a ceasefire in November, expressed “Deep indignation at the images coming from Gaza where civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers” in a statement on X. “I express my strongest condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice and respect for international law.”

“The situation in Gaza is terrible. All civilian populations must be protected. A ceasefire must be implemented immediately to allow humanitarian aid to be distributed,” he said. 

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock 

The German Foreign Office posted in a statement on X attributed to Annalena Baerbock, relaying that she was shaken by the reports of people killed while seeking food for their families. “The Israeli army must fully investigate the incident and how the mass panic and shootings occurred,” the statement read.

“In Gaza, people are closer to death than to life,” the statement continued. “More humanitarian aid must get in immediately. A humanitarian pause is more urgent than ever so that hostages can finally be freed from Hamas, the dying in Gaza stops and aid can be distributed safely. 

Belgium Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib, Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Caroline Gennez

Hadja Lahbib said on X that “the tragedy in northern Gaza reinforces Belgium's call for an immediate ceasefire.” She later said Belgium would also work with Jordan to airdrop aid into Gaza.

Caroline Gennez said on X after the incident: “Nowhere and no one is safe in Gaza. Humanitarian aid is already barely getting in. And now people queuing up for a crumb of bread in the most horrific conditions and under threat of starvation are just being shot. This. Must. Stop.”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com