February 29, 2024 - Israel-Hamas war

By Kathleen Magramo, Deva Lee, Sophie Tanno, Antoinette Radford, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Matt Meyer, Maureen Chowdhury and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, March 1, 2024
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1:52 p.m. ET, February 29, 2024

Biden and Qatari leader say deadly aid site tragedy underscores urgency for ceasefire deal

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

US President Joe Biden and Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar discussed the "tragic and alarming incident" that left more 100 people killed in Gaza, according to the health ministry in the strip, the White House said on Thursday.

"Both leaders grieved the loss of civilian lives and agreed that this incident underscored the urgency of bringing negotiations to a close as soon as possible and expanding the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza," the White House said in a readout of the call between two leaders. 

More than 100 people were killed during the chaos, where Israeli troops opened fire and triggered panic as hungry Palestinian civilians were gathering around food aid trucks, Palestinian officials and eyewitnesses said.

On hostages: Biden and Al-Thani also discussed efforts to free remaining hostages held by Hamas, according to the readout.  

“They agreed that Hamas should release the hostages it is holding without delay,” the White House wrote. “The leaders underscored that the release of hostages would result in an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza over a period of at least six weeks. They exchanged views on how such a prolonged period of calm could then be built into something more enduring."

The two also talked about getting more humanitarian assistance into Gaza “and how the ceasefire under the hostage deal would further help enable those efforts and ensure that assistance reached civilians in need throughout Gaza.”

1:24 p.m. ET, February 29, 2024

Palestinian political factions are meeting in Moscow. Here’s what you need to know

From CNN staff

Palestinian factions, some of whom have been at odds for almost two decades, are meeting in Moscow to discuss forming a new government just days after the Palestinian Authority government resigned.

Here's some key things to know:

Fatah: The Palestinian faction is a political party.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO): The organization is a coalition of parties that signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1993. The Fatah political party dominates PLO.

Palestinian Authority (PA): The interim Palestinian government that was established in the Israeli-occupied West Bank after the 1993 agreement known as the Oslo Accords was signed. The Fatah political party dominates the PA. The PA has however become deeply unpopular among Palestinians, and is seen as corrupt and unable to provide security in the face of regular Israeli military incursions. It is also under intense pressure from the United States to reform.

Hamas: The militant group is attending the talks, according to Russian media. It is not part of the PLO and does not recognize Israel. It won the 2006 legislative elections in the occupied territories and has since ruled Gaza.

Can Hamas unite under the PLO: “The incorporation of Hamas, along with other factions that are outside the PLO, is an essential step for the reform and revival of the PLO,” said Khaled Elgindy, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC. “Otherwise, the PLO cannot legitimately claim to be truly representative.”

If Hamas joins PLO, will it automatically recognize Israel: Despite the PLO’s recognition of Israel, Hamas joining the bloc wouldn’t mean that it would automatically acknowledge it, Elgindy said, adding, “It could – and likely would – constrain the kinds of concessions that the PLO might make in any future diplomatic process with Israel.”

Remember: Hamas has said in the past that it is willing to accept a Palestinian state on the territories Israel captured in the 1967 war, but has ruled out recognition of Israel.

What is the objective of the meeting in Moscow: The objective of the two-day talks is to unite the factions under the Palestine Liberation Organization, and form a new government in the Palestinian Authority (PA), according to a spokesperson for Fatah. However, Elgindy says the main hurdles to Hamas joining the PLO would be how much power it would get in the grouping, and how to deal with its weapons and fighters. The negotiations will require Fatah and Hamas “to relinquish a measure of power in the interest of national unity.”

CNN’s Abbas Al Lawati, Matog Saleh and Celine Alkhaldi contributed to this report.

9:20 p.m. ET, February 29, 2024

Over 100 killed after Israeli forces open fire at Gaza food line, health ministry says. Here's what to know

From CNN staff

More than 100 people were killed in northern Gaza where Israeli troops opened fire Thursday, triggering panic as hungry Palestinian civilians were gathering around food aid trucks, Palestinian officials and eyewitnesses said.

CNN is unable to independently confirm the death toll, and the Israeli military has given a different account of the circumstances.

What we know: The carnage unfolded early Thursday when a group of trucks carrying desperately needed aid arrived at Haroun Al Rasheed Street in western Gaza City, in the Sheikh Ajleen neighborhood.

People had swarmed around the newly arrived aid trucks when Israeli forces started shooting, according to witnesses. Many of the victims died when they were run over by trucks, according to one account.

As the aid trucks tried to escape the area, others were accidentally rammed, causing further deaths and injuries, an eyewitness told CNN.

A local journalist in Gaza, Khader Al Za’anoun, who was at the scene and witnessed the incident, said the chaos and confusion that led to people being hit by the trucks only started once Israeli forces opened fire.

What the IDF says: An Israeli official told CNN IDF troops did use live fire on people surrounding aid truck as "the crowd approached the forces in a manner that posed a threat to the troops, who responded to the threat with live fire. The incident is under review."

Israeli government spokesperson Avi Hyman also told reporters that the incident was "obviously a tragedy, but we're not sure of the specifics quite yet."

What Hamas says:

Hamas senior member Izzat Al-Risheq warned that Thursday's incident could lead to the failure of ongoing talks aiming at the release of hostages and a ceasefire.

Here's what else you need to know:

  • US monitoring situation: US President Joe Biden says his administration is looking into what happened at a food distribution site in Gaza. He said he believed the incident would complicate negotiations in the region, but said he was still optimistic. A White House official confirmed that Biden spoke with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar on Thursday. One senior Biden administration official said that the incident has made US officials feel even more pressure to help get a hostages-ceasefire deal across the finish line.
  • UN warning: The United Nations aid chief warned on Thursday that life is “draining out of Gaza at terrifying speed,” after news of the aid truck deaths.
  • Moscow meeting: Intra-Palestinian talks focusing on Gaza's settlement are underway in Moscow, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reports. The Russian foreign ministry earlier said representatives from Hamas and rival political faction Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, would take part in the talks.
  • Lebanon incursion: There is concern among US administration and intelligence officials that Israel is planning a ground incursion into Lebanon that could be launched in the coming months if diplomatic efforts fail to push Hezbollah back from the northern border with Israel, senior administration officials and officials familiar with the intelligence said.
  • Hostage families march: Families of hostages in Gaza have started the second day of their long-distance march from southern Israel's Re'im to Jerusalem, repeating their calls for the release of those captured during the October 7 attack.
  • Protesters block border: Protestors holding Israeli flags at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza Strip appear to have again blocked aid shipments into Gaza on Thursday, videos obtained by CNN show.
  • Death toll passes 30,000: More than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel’s war with Hamas began in October, the health ministry in the besieged enclave said Thursday.

This post has been updated with CNN's latest reporting on the carnage at a Gaza food aid site.

12:10 p.m. ET, February 29, 2024

Jordan says it airdropped humanitarian aid into northern Gaza

From CNN's Caroline Faraj and Jennifer Hauser

Jordanian Armed Forces said it conducted two airdrops of humanitarian relief to northern Gaza Thursday.

It was carried out in cooperation with Bahrain and Oman, Jordan said.

Jordan carried out a coordinated airdrop in the north, but windy conditions caused some supplies to land on the Israeli side of the border, an Israeli military spokesperson said at a briefing Thursday.

11:28 a.m. ET, February 29, 2024

Biden says Gaza food distribution site deaths will complicate negotiations, but he remains hopeful for a deal

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal

US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C, on February 29.
US President Joe Biden speaks to reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C, on February 29. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden says his administration is looking into what happened at a food distribution site in Gaza — where local health officials say more than 100 people were killed and hundreds more injured — and he admitted the incident is going to complicate negotiations in the region. 

“We’re checking that out right now; there are two competing versions of what happened. I don’t have an answer yet,” the president told CNN’s Arlette Saenz at the White House on Thursday. 

Asked by Saenz if he worried the deaths would complicate negotiations, he responded: “Oh, I know it will.” 

But Biden still expressed optimism that a deal on the hostages and a potential ceasefire could be reached soon. 

“Hope springs eternal,” Biden said. “I was on the telephone with people in the region, I’m still – probably not by Monday, but I’m hopeful.” 

A White House official confirmed that Biden spoke with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar on Thursday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with his Qatari counterpart Thursday, according to a source.

A senior Biden administration official said that the incident has made US officials feel even more pressure to help get a hostages-ceasefire deal across the finish line. The situation “gives even added urgency to the process,” the official told CNN Thursday morning.

Some context: Earlier this week, Biden commented that a deal could be reached by the end of the weekend. Officials from Israel, Hamas and Qatar all distanced themselves from his optimism that a hostage-for-ceasefire deal in Gaza could be reached by the end of this week.

12:19 p.m. ET, February 29, 2024

"Life is draining out of Gaza at terrifying speed," UN relief chief warns

From CNN’s Martin Goillandeau

A picture taken from a position in southern Israel on February 29, shows destroyed buildings in the Gaza Strip.
A picture taken from a position in southern Israel on February 29, shows destroyed buildings in the Gaza Strip. Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations aid chief warned on Thursday that life is “draining out of Gaza at terrifying speed,” after more than 100 people were killed and hundreds were injured while waiting for aid, according to the Palestinian health ministry in the strip.

“Even after close to five months of brutal hostilities, Gaza still has the ability to shock us,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The UN aid chief added he was “appalled at the reported killing and injury of hundreds of people during a transfer of aid supplies west of Gaza City today.”

11:08 a.m. ET, February 29, 2024

Aid site deaths will worsen "an already critical humanitarian crisis," Oxfam policy lead says

From CNN's Antoinette Radford

People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza on February 29.
People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza on February 29. AFP/Getty Images

The deaths of at least 100 people crowded at an aid site in Gaza on Thursday will "only exacerbate an already critical humanitarian crisis," Oxfam's Occupied Palestinian Territory Policy Lead Bushra Khalidi told CNN.

Khalidi described the incident as “absolutely appalling.” 

“It’s clear from the aerial footage that these civilians are desperate. You know, we don't need more footage than this to show so the level of desperation that we're finding in the north,” she said.

At least 104 people were killed and more than 700 injured in western Gaza City after Israel Defense Forces troops opened fire as hungry Palestinians were gathering around food aid trucks, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. An eyewitness told CNN that though large crowds were waiting for food to be distributed from the trucks, the chaos and confusion that led to people being hit by them only started once Israeli soldiers opened fire. 

An Israeli official told CNN troops did use live fire on the people surrounding an aid truck as the crowd “approached the forces in a manner that posed a threat to the troops,” adding that the incident “is under review.” Earlier on Thursday, an Israeli government spokesperson told reporters that the incident was "obviously a tragedy," but Khalidi refuted that suggestion.

“It’s not a tragic event. The unfolding tragedy in Gaza is just a reminder of the need to address the root causes of this conflict,” she said. 

“Attacks on health and the reduction of aid because of Israeli restrictions are unacceptable and violate international law, especially when we have an ICJ (International Court of Justice) order that is very clear where it asks Israel and member states to uphold their duties and responsibilities to ensure that there's unfettered access to humanitarian workers and humanitarian aid in Gaza. And it's not happening,” she added. 

11:10 a.m. ET, February 29, 2024

Talks involving rival Palestinian political factions are underway in Russia, state media says

From CNN’s Anna Chernova

Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, leaves after the Intra-Palestinian meeting in Moscow, Russia, on February 29.
Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, leaves after the Intra-Palestinian meeting in Moscow, Russia, on February 29. Ilya Pitalev/Sputnik/AP

Intra-Palestinian talks focusing on Gaza's settlement are underway in Moscow, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reports.

The meetings with the leading Palestinian factions began with a speech by the director of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies, Vitaly Naumkin, in which he welcomed the participants and wished them successful work, according to the state media report.

The Russian foreign ministry earlier said representatives from Hamas and rival political faction Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, would take part in the talks.

Fatah spokesperson Hussein Hamayel confirmed to CNN on Wednesday the attendance of officials from the Fatah Central Committee. However, Hamas has not confirmed its participation.

The goal of the meeting was to find ways to “unite the Palestinian factions under the Palestinian Liberation Organization” and to form a new government capable of working in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Gaza, Hamayel said.

In his opening remarks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for solving the problem of creating a Palestinian state in accordance with the resolutions of the Security Council and the United Nations General Assembly, and advocated resuming direct dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

CNN's Matog Saleh and Celine Alkhaldi contributed to this report.

11:33 a.m. ET, February 29, 2024

Israeli military says 2 separate aid truck incidents happened in Gaza — which contradicts eyewitness accounts

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

There were two separate incidents involving aid trucks in Gaza that took place several hundred meters apart Thursday, an Israeli military spokesperson claimed in a briefing, offering a timeline that contradicts what eyewitness accounts have said.

What the spokesperson said: In the first incident, at about 4 a.m. local time, roughly 30 trucks with humanitarian aid went from the southern Kerem Shalom crossing into the north. The convoy traveled north across Gaza toward shelters along a coastal road. As they entered northern Gaza, thousands of people surrounded the trucks. The people then rushed the trucks, and dozens were injured and killed — some after being run over by the trucks.

Subsequently, the spokesperson claimed, a group of Palestinians approached a Israeli military position nearby. The soldiers fired warning shots in the air and then fired toward those who "posed a threat and did not move away."

"The truckloads went into the north, then there was the stampede, and then afterwards, there was the event against our forces. That’s how things transpired this morning,” the spokesperson said.

When asked how many civilians were killed when they approached Israeli forces, he said he did not have any figures to provide.

CNN cannot independently confirm the version of events given by the Israeli military spokesperson.

What eyewitnesses said: That timeline directly contradicts eyewitness accounts, which indicate that the Israeli military opened fire on people near the trucks, causing truck drivers to drive away in panic, killing additional people.

At least 104 people were killed and 760 injured in the chaotic incident, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza. CNN is unable to independently confirm these numbers.

CNN's Jennifer Hauser contributed reporting to this post.

This post has been updated with additional comments from the spokesperson.