Will the Al-Rashid Street aid massacre derail Israel-Hamas Ramadan truce?

Will the Al-Rashid Street aid massacre derail Israel-Hamas Ramadan truce?
The atrocity in which more than 100 civilians were killed has risked rowing back progress on already fragile ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas.
3 min read
01 March, 2024
The Israeli military has said it is investigating the incident in which civilians were shot at while waiting for aid [Getty]]

The horror of Al-Rashid Street aid massacre on Thursday, in which over 100 Palestinians were killed while collecting aid in Gaza City, has cast doubt over the future of the already fragile ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas.

There have been weeks of speculation about whether a ceasefire deal can be reached before Ramadan in mid-March, and is said to include a 40-day pause in fighting and a hostage-prisoner swap.

Thousands of people were waiting to collect food parcels early Thursday morning at Al-Rashid Street, near Gaza City, when Israeli forces reportedly opened fire on the crowds causing mass casualties and panic.

The Israeli military has said that it started firing on a group of civilians waiting for aid who "dangerously" approached them, according to an Israeli military official quoted by The Times of Israel.

Thursday’s attack, which triggered international condemnation and shock, has risked undoing crucial progress regarding a potential truce.

US President Joe Biden admitted that the atrocity would complicate efforts to finalise any ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel, which he had earlier claimed could be achieved by Monday.

In a press briefing in Washington on Thursday, Biden was asked by reporters about the status of the talks. He said "hope springs eternal" but that it would probably not happen by Monday.

American and Qatari mediators had expressed optimism that a deal between the two parties would be reached soon.

What has Hamas said?

In response to the atrocity, Hamas also suggested that negotiations with Israel could be derailed.

"In light of the ongoing massacres, we stress that the negotiations conducted by the leadership of the movement are not an open process at the expense of the blood of our people," it said in a statement.

"The enemy bears the consequences of the failure of negotiations as long as it persists in its crimes against our people.

Qatar-based Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq told Al Jazeera Arabic network that the negotiations do not serve as a "cover for the enemy to continue its crimes".

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Earlier this week, officials from the Palestinian group had stressed there was still a way to go to reach an agreement. Sticking points have included Hamas’s wish for Israel’s full military withdrawal from the Strip, which is at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war objectives of so-called "total victory" in Gaza.

Ismail Haniyeh said on Wednesday that Hamas was showing 'flexibility' in the negotiations - which could see the first pause in fighting since December.

There was concern about the fighting spilling over into Ramadan which is expected to begin around March 10, but Haniyeh said it was not an issue. "It does not bother us if we enter the month of Ramadan in confrontation and jihad, as it is a month of victories."

How has the international community responded?

The Egyptian and Jordanian governments, who have played roles in mediation, were quick to deplore the attack on civilians.

"We condemn the inhumane Israeli targeting of … unarmed Palestinian civilians in the Nabulsi roundabout in the northern Gaza," Egypt’s foreign ministry said.

"We consider targeting peaceful citizens rushing to pick up their share of aid a shameful crime and a flagrant violation of international law," the statement added.

United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths in a post on X said: "I'm appalled at the reported killing and injury of hundreds of people during a transfer of aid supplies west of Gaza City today."

The Israeli military claimed that fire from soldiers resulted in no more than ten fatalities and stated it is investigating the incident