U.S. Makes Its First Gaza Aid Air-Drop In Joint Operation With Jordan


(MENAFN- NewsIn) Ben Samuel/Reuters

Washington, March 2: The United States military carried out its first air-drop of humanitarian aid into Gaza on Saturday, U.S. officials said, and aid agencies warned of a growing humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave as Israel pressed on with its offensive.

Three C-130 planes delivered more than 38,000 meals into a territory where the United Nations says one quarter of the population is one step from famine, and Palestinians posted videos on social media showing boxes of aid being dropped.

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There were 66 total bundles dropped – 22 from each aircraft, the official said. The bundles were meals dropped for the population of Gaza – there was no water or medical supplies.

The White House has said the airdrops will be a sustained effort, and that Israel is supportive of the operation.

President Joe Biden announced on Friday that the U.S. would begin the airdrops soon after saying,“Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough.” The White House has said the airdrops will be a sustained effort, and that Israel was supportive of the airdrops.

U.S. officials had quietly floated this as a last-resort sort of effort, considering the logistical difficulty and the fact that aid is only equivalent to one or two trucks.

Human rights and international aid organizations have sharply criticized U.S. aid drops as a half measure, meant to obfuscate U.S. failures to further push Israel into allowing the necessary amounts of aid into Gaza.

At least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip – one-quarter of the enclave's population – are one step away from famine, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Hamas' health authorities said Israeli forces had killed more than 100 people trying to reach a relief convoy near Gaza City early on Thursday, as Palestinians face an increasingly desperate situation nearly five months into the war that began with a Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.

Israel blamed most of the deaths on crowds that swarmed around aid trucks, saying victims had been trampled or run over. An Israeli official also said troops had“in a limited response” later fired on crowds they felt had posed a threat.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the air-drops would have only a limited impact on the suffering of those in Gaza.“It doesn't deal with the root cause,” the official said, adding that ultimately, only opening up land borders could deal with the issue in a serious manner.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin praised CENTCOM, the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and the Jordanian Air Force for the operation, which he said“”contributes to ongoing international and U.S. efforts to provide humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza.”

The amount of aid typically included on one truck is approximately 50,000 food rations – further illustrating the lack of tangible impact the air drop has regarding the intense levels of starvation currently present in Gaza.

Next drop likely to occur this week, probably Wednesday, a U.S. official says. The effort is part of the U.S. push to further redouble efforts to open a maritime corridor and expand deliveries by land, the official adds, stressing the air-drops are not the sole method the U.S. is undertaking to increase aid.

The U.S. is discussing a maritime aid route into Gaza with Cyprus, the UN and commercial firms, a senior Biden administration official said Saturday.

The problem hasn't been getting trucks into Gaza, the official said – the problem has been distribution. The distribution issue has multiple roots, the official said, but removing police from protective duties for convoys and the lawlessness has moved to a very different level.

Criminal gangs have been taking, looting, reselling, and monetizing the aid, according to the official, who added that the solution is flooding the market. Various sources have said that this ongoing challenge is not a reflection on Israel, but a reflection on the need for more aid throughout Gaza.

President Biden has instructed U.S. officials to look into all possible options to boost aid, both through government and commercial avenues.“Pursuing every avenue speaks to the dire and desperate situation on the ground,” the official said. Air-drops aren't an alternative to moving aid through as many land crossings as possible, the official added.

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