Rights group decries Israeli military's use of 'aid truck' disguise in Nuseirat massacre

Rights group decries Israeli military's use of 'aid truck' disguise in Nuseirat massacre
The Palestinian Red Crescent slammed the Israeli military's alleged use of a humanitarian aid truck as cover for its massacre in Nuseirat which killed hundreds
4 min read
11 June, 2024
The Israeli army killed hundreds of people in Nuseirat refugee camp on Saturday [Getty]in central Gaza was left in tatters following Israel's major hostage rescue operation on Saturday [GETTY]

Humanitarians have denounced reports that the Israeli military used an aid truck as a disguise for its brutal attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, which saw hundreds of Palestinians killed during an operation to rescue captives held by Hamas.

Israel launched a large-scale attack on Nuseirat refugee camp on Saturday to rescue four Israeli captives being held by Hamas fighters that left swathes of destruction and hundreds of dead Palestinians in its wake.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), one of the main medical organisations in Gaza, decried what it said was the Israeli military's covert use of a humanitarian truck to infiltrate the Palestinian camp, which it said puts the lives of aid workers in danger.

In a statement posted to social media site X on Monday, PRCS said that the covert operation was "troubling for several reasons".

"One is using a trusted source for people trapped in the conflict is a violation of international humanitarian and customary law, which prohibits the crime of perfidy," the organisation said, referring to the military's apparent duplicity.

"The hiding of military forces inside an aid truck is considered a war crime against civilians. The occupation forces deceived people by pretending to be giving aid."

Gaza's health ministry said the hours-long attack killed 274 people, including 64 children and 57 women, and injured over 700 people, describing it as a massacre.

Residents of Nuseirat, which had come under fire previously, reported hours of artillery shelling and local journalists said there were bodies scattered across the streets in the aftermath.

Nearby al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital reported being severely overwhelmed by dozens of casualties and medics said it was the bloodiest day yet in the eight-month-long war.

A hospital spokesperson told AP at the time that it received the bodies of 109 Palestinians, including 23 children and 11 women.

Palestinians also said they saw some special forces soldiers dressed as Hamas fighters or civilians, according to media reports.

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The Israeli army said it killed "less than 100 civilians" in the operation, which was praised in Israel for the successful return of captives for the first time since the start of the war. It also denied using a civilian truck in the operation, despite witness testimonies.

The UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese denounced the Israeli army's action as "humanitarian camouflage".

In a post on social media site X, Albanese said: "It should not have come at the expense of at least 200 Palestinians, including children, killed and over 400 injured by Israel and allegedly foreign soldiers, while perfidiously hiding in an aid truck."

"This is "humanitarian camouflage" at another level."

Following the attack on Nuseirat, a photo was shared on social media of a white Mercedes truck parked on a narrow street and filled with plastic bags with a body lying next to it. A foot ladder was placed in the back of the truck, leading to a multistorey apartment.

The vehicle was reportedly used by the Israeli troops to reach captive Noa Argamani, who was held in a separate building within the vicinity of three other male hostages.

The New Arab was not able to independently verify the claims.

PCRS medics have faced repeated intimidation and attacks by the Israeli military throughout the war, the organisation has said, despite its position as a neutral body under the Geneva Conventions on conflict.

In the statement on Monday, PCRS said the Israeli military's disguise also risks destroying civilian's trust in aid workers.

"The second reason is it destroys the trust of the civilian population in those who are delivering aid. This again puts humanitarian aid workers and health care workers at risk," PCRS said.

This is not the first time the Israeli army has used disguise and duplicity to carry out attacks against Palestinians.

In January, Israeli soldiers dressed as doctors and civilians raided a hospital in Jenin in the occupied West Bank in an alarming incident which sparked international condemnation.

The soldiers killed three men who they said were militants.

Human rights groups denounced Israel for the attack, saying it defied international humanitarian law and the neutrality of health facilities.

Since the start of the Gaza war, humanitarians have faced repeated threats of attack. Israel prompted a global outcry when it killed seven aid workers from the charity World Central Kitchen in air strikes in April.

At least 272 aid workers have been killed since the start of the war in October, according to an OCHA report from 9 June.