Israel accused Hamas of “actively preventing” civilians from leaving Gaza
The Israel Defense Forces have denied deliberately killing civilians trying to flee north Gaza in airstrikes, saying any information coming from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave should be treated with “extreme caution and suspicion” as it serves their “propaganda purposes.”
While not completely ruling out the possibility of a “freak accident,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Colonel Jonathan Conricus insisted on Sunday that “there was no targeting of vehicles, there was no targeting of civilians” referring to Friday’s incident, in which dozens of people were killed or injured.
The spokesman demonstrated a video showing cars driving down Salah al-Din road, following an Israeli evacuation order, before an explosion hit one of the vehicles.
“I’m not a forensic expert, I won’t be able to say if this is a roadside IED or if this is a strike from above. But what I am able to say with confidence, because we have asked, is that the IDF did not purposely strike in that area,” Conricus said.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 15, 2023
Health officials in the Hamas-governed Palestinian enclave claimed on Friday that Israeli airstrikes hit civilian cars in three separate locations, killing 70 people, and injuring up to 150 others. The UN humanitarian body, OCHA, said that “these incidents prompted many people to abandon their evacuation efforts and return home.”
However, the IDF spokesman insisted that “when the so-called Gaza Ministry of Health issues information about the amount of people killed, if they were armed or not, if they were women or children, obviously that information is authorized by Hamas… and serves its propaganda purposes.”
The IDF spokesman went on to argue that it “makes no sense for the IDF to have done it,” specifically “because we wanted people to go south.”
“Who would want to stop those same civilians – the same organization that did the roadblocks,” he claimed. “Hamas has both issued warnings to their civilians not to evacuate and when people did not listen to those warnings of Hamas they have actually stopped civilians.”
“Again, this is not conclusive,” the spokesman admitted. “What is conclusive is that we for sure did not strike on purpose. It may have been some kind of a freak accident, which I doubt.”
On Thursday, Israel ordered the population of northern Gaza to move to the south in order to “save their lives,” and distance themselves from the militants ahead of a ground offensive. The entire territory remains blockaded, with the crossing to Egypt closed since Tuesday due to Israeli airstrikes.
Following Hamas’ attack on Israel last weekend, which left some 1,300 Israelis dead, Israel has targeted Gaza with the most intense bombing campaign in decades, killing upwards of 2,200 Palestinians and injuring over 7,600, according to local health officials.