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War on Gaza: Israeli forces target aid workers in string of killings amid imminent famine

A series of attacks on police and tribal committees comes after local efforts to organise aid distribution
Mourners gather to pray next to the bodies of Palestinian men from an array of tribes and factions, who secure aid convoys in Gaza, after they were killed in an Israeli strike, in Gaza City, 20 March 2024 (Reuters/Dawoud Abu Alkas)
Mourners gather next to the bodies of Palestinian men who secured aid convoys in Gaza, after they were killed in an Israeli strike in Gaza City, 20 March 2024 (Reuters/Dawoud Abu Alkas)

Israeli forces have stepped up targeted killings of Palestinian police officers and civilians coordinating food distribution in the Gaza Strip, where famine is looming. 

An Israeli air strike on Tuesday killed 23 people at the Kuwait roundabout in Gaza City as they were preparing to receive an aid convoy. 

Those killed were members of people's committees formed recently by tribal leaders to organise aid distribution, including the head of the “emergency committee” in west Gaza City, Amjad Abhat. 

Israeli forces also killed two police officers on Tuesday. Raed al-Banna was killed in Jabalia and Mahmoud al-Bayoumi in the central Nuseirat refugee camp.

The officers were in charge of securing aid centres and trucks.   

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Bayoumi, head of the Nuseirat police department, was killed along with four other people when a car was bombed outside an Unrwa building. 

Another police officer, Faiq Mabhouh, was killed by Israeli forces on Monday, during the raid on al-Shifa hospital

Mabhouh, the director-general of Gaza's police operations, was credited for the recent coordination between local leaders and Unrwa to secure and distribute aid coming from the south. 

Meanwhile, Israeli forces also increased the bombing of aid centres and warehouses in recent days. 

According to the Gaza-based government media office, at least 100 aid seekers and workers have been killed in such attacks over the past week. 

The media office accused Israel of attempting to “perpetuate the policy of starvation and deepen the famine” in Gaza. 

Hamas condemned the targeting of local committees working on aid distribution, calling it an attempt to “spread chaos”. 

Efforts to organise aid undermined    

The latest killings come after tribal leaders worked with police to stop the unorganised entry of aid trucks into northern Gaza. 

In recent months, Israeli forces have killed over 400 Palestinians in northern Gaza as they gathered to collect aid from trucks arriving from the south. 

To stop the killing of aid seekers, tribal leaders formed a “people’s protection committee” that ensured the safe delivery of aid into northern Gaza over the weekend.

Israel targets police and aid agencies to 'create chaos'
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Over two dozen aid trucks entered Gaza City on Saturday and Sunday, reaching isolated areas in the north for the first time in months. 

On Monday, the Israeli army launched a surprise ground assault on west Gaza City, including a raid on al-Shifa hospital, which coincided with the increased attacks on tribal committees and police. 

In a statement, the national assembly of Palestinian tribes mourned the death of members of the popular committees. 

It added that the tribes remain “united in supporting police, the resistance and the home front”. 

Israeli forces have killed nearly 32,000 Palestinians since 7 October, including at least 14,000 children, according to the Palestinian health ministry. 

Meanwhile, Israel has been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war as it has continued to severely restrict the entry of humanitarian aid for over five months.

Israel ‘provoking famine’

On Monday, UN agencies said famine was imminent in northern Gaza. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Israel was “provoking famine” in the besieged strip.

A UN-backed initiative found that the entire population of Gaza, estimated to be around 2.3 million, is enduring "acute" food insecurity, while half the population suffers from a greater level of food insecurity classified as "catastrophic".

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a multi-partner initiative, concluded that the hunger level in Gaza is the "highest share of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity that the IPC initiative has ever classified for any given area or country".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this was the first time an entire population has been classified at severe levels of acute food insecurity. 

According to the Palestinian health ministry, at least 27 children have died from malnutrition so far. 

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