Israel has been accused of committing a war crime after its air force struck a convoy of civilians fleeing from the northern Gaza Strip, killing at least 70 people and injuring more than 200 others. The attack occurred on Friday, October 13, 2023, after Israel issued an evacuation order to more than one million residents of Gaza City, warning them to move south for their protection before an expected ground invasion.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization condemned the order as “impossible” and “a death sentence” for vulnerable hospital patients and others who could not leave.
According to Hamas officials, most of the victims were women and children who were trying to escape the intense bombardment of Gaza City by Israeli forces. They said that Israeli jets targeted several cars and buses that were carrying civilians along the main road to central Gaza, causing a massive explosion and a scene of carnage. Eyewitnesses described seeing bodies and body parts scattered on the road, along with charred vehicles and personal belongings. Some survivors said they had received no warning before the strike and accused Israel of deliberately targeting them.
The international community has expressed alarm over the escalating violence and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where at least 1,900 people have been killed and more than 6,300 wounded in Israeli air strikes. The UN Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution to end the conflict but has failed to agree on a resolution due to US opposition. US President Joe Biden has expressed his support for Israel’s right to self-defense, but has also urged restraint and expressed concern over the high civilian casualties in Gaza. He has also dispatched his Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region to try to broker a truce.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls Gaza, erupted after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from air, land and sea on October 7, 2023, in response to what it said were Israeli provocations and violations of Palestinian rights in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Hamas claimed responsibility for firing thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and towns, as well as sending drones, boats and commandos across the border. Israel responded with a massive aerial campaign against Hamas targets in Gaza, as well as shelling and ground raids. Both sides have vowed to continue fighting until their demands are met.