The US Army carries out the first airdrop of aid into Gaza

The US military announced that it carried out the first airdrop of humanitarian aid into Gaza on Saturday, after the killing of Palestinians who were queuing for food shed light on the growing humanitarian catastrophe in the crowded coastal strip.

Other countries, including Jordan and France, carried out air drops of aid into the Gaza Strip, which the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says at least a quarter of its population, 576,000, is one step away from famine, months after the start of Israeli military operations.

The US Army said in a statement that the airdrop was carried out using C-130 aircraft, noting that it dropped more than 38,000 meals on the Gaza coast. Jordanian forces participated in the operation.

“We are making plans for a possible continuation of airborne aid delivery missions,” the statement added.

A US official told Reuters that the airdrops took place over southwest Gaza and the town of Al-Mawasi.

The White House said on Friday that air drops would continue and that Israel supports these missions.

An American official said that, in light of internal and external pressure, the administration of US President Joe Biden is also considering shipping aid by sea from Cyprus, located about 210 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza.

For months, Israel has been resisting American calls to allow more aid into Gaza.

Experts said that the necessity of costly and ineffective airdrops is the latest evidence of Washington’s weak influence on Israel, which continues its war with Hamas. Washington supplies Israel with weapons and considers it one of its closest allies in the region.

Critics of air drops say that they have limited effect in reducing this suffering and that it is impossible to guarantee that supplies will not fall into the hands of militants.

Before the war, Gaza relied on the entry of 500 trucks loaded with supplies daily.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said on Friday that about 97 trucks were entering the Gaza Strip daily on average during February, compared to about 150 trucks daily in January.

Aid deliveries from the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza have almost stopped. Although trucks sometimes passed through the Israeli Kerem Shalom crossing, Israeli protesters deliberately obstructed them. UNRWA says that the crossing was closed from the 8th to the 10th of February, and from the 15th to the 17th of the same month.

With people eating animal feed to survive and medics saying children are dying from malnutrition and dehydration, the United Nations says it faces “enormous obstacles” in getting aid in.

Gaza health authorities said that Israeli forces killed more than 100 people as they tried to reach a relief convoy near Gaza City on Thursday. The Palestinians face an increasingly miserable situation nearly five months after the outbreak of war.

Israel said that most of the deaths occurred either as a result of the stampede or when trucks ran over them while they were besieging it amid a state of confusion. But an Israeli official said troops later opened fire on crowds they felt posed a threat, saying, “It was a limited response.”

Israel says it is committed to improving the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and accuses Hamas militants of endangering Palestinian civilians by using them as human shields.

Thursday’s incident near Gaza City recorded the largest loss of civilian lives in weeks. Hamas said this could jeopardize the ongoing talks in Qatar aimed at ensuring a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages. Hopes increased for reaching a truce before the month of Ramadan.

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