Thousands of Palestinians flocked to an aid distribution point early Thursday, desperate for food amid Gaza's looming famine, only to be met with lethal chaos including live fire by Israeli troops, witnesses said.

By midafternoon the Hamas-run health ministry said more than 100 people were reported dead in the grisly incident which underscored worsening shortages in the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

"There were crowds of people, but the occupation (forces) kept firing toward us," one young man said while lying on the dirty, crowded floor at Kamal Adwan Hospital waiting for treatment.