Israel Palestine Conflict

US carries out first airdrop of aid into Gaza: Officials

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The US military on Saturday carried out its first airdrop of aid into Gaza, three US officials said, after the deaths of Palestinians queuing for food underlined the growing humanitarian catastrophe in the crowded coastal enclave after months of Israeli military operations.

Other countries including Jordan and France have already conducted airdrops of aid into Gaza, where the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says a quarter of the population - 576,000 people - are one step from famine.

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The US airdrop used three C-130 transport planes, said two of the US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It was not immediately clear where the aid was dropped. One of the officials said it included more than 38,000 meals on 66 pallets.

The White House said on Friday the airdrops will be a sustained effort, and that Israel supported the measure.

Under pressure at home and abroad, the Biden administration is also considering shipping aid by sea from Cyprus, some 210 nautical miles off Gaza’s Mediterranean coast, according to a US official.

The US for months has been calling for Israel to allow more aid into Gaza, something Israel has resisted.

Some experts said being forced to resort to costly, inefficient airdrops was the latest demonstration of Washington’s limited influence over Israel as it pursues its war with Hamas.

Washington is arming Israel and considers it one of its closest allies in the region.

Critics of airdrops say they have only a limited impact on the suffering, and that it is impossible to ensure supplies do not end up in the hands of militants.

Before the conflict, Gaza relied on 500 trucks with supplies entering daily.

The UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said on Friday that during February an average of nearly 97 trucks were able to enter Gaza each day, compared with about 150 a day in January.

Deliveries through the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and Gaza have been almost halted. While trucks have sometimes passed through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, they have been disrupted by Israeli protesters seeking to block deliveries. UNRWA says the crossing was closed from Feb. 8-10 and Feb. 15-17.

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With people eating animal feed to survive and medics saying children are dying from malnutrition and dehydration, the UN has said it faces “overwhelming obstacles” getting in aid.

Gaza health authorities said Israeli forces killed more than 100 people trying to reach a relief convoy near Gaza City on Thursday. Palestinians face an increasingly desperate situation nearly five months into the war.

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.

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