The five men, fear etched on their faces, lift their hands in the air as they try to walk down a desolate and relatively quiet street in southern Gaza. Plumes of dark smoke billow into the air close by.
A young man holds a makeshift white flag aloft. The small group is trying to reach family members trapped down the street, a middle-age man says on camera, gesturing with his hands. A gold wedding ring gleams on one of his fingers.
Moments later, shots rip through the buzzing sound of drones, and the men duck to take cover. But before they are able to get away, the man with the wedding ring collapses.
The incident, recorded in the Al Mawasi neighborhood in Khan Younis, which the Israeli military had designated a “safe zone,” unfolds in nine videos obtained and verified by NBC News. It raises more questions about Israeli forces’ treatment of civilians caught in the war, which has already killed 25,000 Palestinians, including 10,000 children.
After the gunfire subsides, locals flock to drag the body off the street. A woman screams. Prayers and sobs can be heard as a crowd gathers around the body, and one man furiously tries to revive the dead man.
Gunfire breaks out again, and the larger group takes shelter in the courtyard of a nearby university.
Ahmed Hijazi, a Palestinian videographer who witnessed the event and recorded the videos, told NBC News that the bullets came from one of several nearby Israeli tanks.
“The tanks directly fired” at the dead man, and “one of the bullets went straight into his heart. He was immediately killed,” said Hijazi, who ran back to the group after the shooting and continued recording.
NBC News cannot confirm Hijazi’s account of who opened fire, which aligns with a report on the same incident by the British news network ITV News, which showed different angles. In a separate video, verified by NBC News and recorded from a building in Al Aqsa University, Israeli tanks are seen lining the road.
The Israeli military said this week that it had encircled the area, with its troops deepening their ground offensive “to the west” of Khan Younis.
Further videos of the scene show Hijazi and other displaced Palestinians running to retrieve the mortally wounded man, who is bleeding from his chest.
NBC News provided the Israel Defense Forces with a raw, single-take video of the shooting, its precise location and the time it occurred and asked whether Israeli forces had fired at the men. A spokesperson said that the IDF was “not aware of this incident” and that “the video is clearly edited, and we have no way to comment.” The spokesperson declined to say whether IDF soldiers were in the area Monday.
Hamas officials did not immediately respond to requests for information and comment on the incident.
Before the incident, the group of men had hoped to reunite with the 50 or so family members they had been split up from, according to the men’s comments on camera and the eyewitness interview conducted by NBC News. According to the man with the wedding band, his brother and his brother’s children were surrounded by Israeli tanks, and the men were returning east in hope of retrieving them.
“They didn’t bring my brother. We want to go get him out, God willing,” the man says in the video minutes before he is killed.
In the third of the videos, recorded just after 3 p.m. Monday, the five men begin to walk along the road toward the smoke. One of them holds a green ID card in addition to the white flag when at least three gunshots are fired, killing the older man.
“We carried him and took him to his wife and his daughter, his family members who were waiting for him,” Hijazi said, referring to people in the crowd. “There was a doctor there, and he performed artificial breathing and pressure so he could see if he still breathed.”
Hijazi identified the man as a known apparel merchant in the community who was a member of the Abou Sahloul family. ITV named him as Ramzi. Hijazi described the moment as among the worst things he has witnessed in the war, which are “hard to forget and comprehend.”
The incident took place just outside the walls of Al-Aqsa University on Al-Bahr Street, a few minutes’ walk from Al-Khair Hospital, according to geolocation analysis by NBC News and metadata provided by Hijazi — further information, such as the location, date and time it was shot, that is embedded within the video.
Tents and temporary shelters line the road, formerly occupied by some of the hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians who have been chasing relative safety in the southern city of Rafah.
Under the laws of war, also called International Humanitarian Law, parties to an armed conflict must take all feasible measures to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and they may target only combatants. Though civilians have no obligation to do it, waving a white flag is a universally recognized symbol as a further attempt to show that one is unarmed and means no harm.
U.S. officials have seen the video, State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said Wednesday, but he declined to comment on the specifics.
Asked whether the U.S. would support an Israeli investigation, Patel said, “That is for the IDF to undertake and determine, based on the circumstances of that situation.”
“We have been clear to our Israeli partners that they need to take every possible measure to avoid civilian harm during an operation and investigate credible allegations of law or war violations when they arise,” he said.