US military to airdrop food and supplies into Gaza

Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali and Nandita Bose |

The US is planning to air-drop essential supplies into Gaza to relieve its humanitarian crisis.
The US is planning to air-drop essential supplies into Gaza to relieve its humanitarian crisis.

The US is planning a military airdrop of food and supplies into Gaza, a day after the deaths of Palestinians queuing for aid threw a spotlight on the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the crowded coastal enclave.

US President Joe Biden said the airdrop would take place in the coming days but offered no further specifics. Other countries including Jordan and France have already carried out airdrops 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.

Gaza 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.

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

However a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the airdrops 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.

Another issue, the official added, was that the US could not ensure the aid simply didn’t end up in Hamas’ hands, given the United States did not have troops on the ground.

“Humanitarian workers always complain that airdrops are good photo opportunities but a lousy way to deliver aid,” Richard Gowan, the International Crisis Group’s UN Director, said. Gowan said that the only way to get enough aid was through aid convoys which would follow a truce.

“It is arguable that the situation in Gaza is now so bad that any additional supplies will at least alleviate some suffering. But this at best a temporary (band) aid measure,” Gowan added.

It was unclear if Biden’s announcement was coordinated with Israel.

“We are aware of the humanitarian airdrop,” an Israeli official in Washington said.

The UN delivered aid including medicines, vaccines and fuel to besieged northern Gaza for the first time in over a week on Friday.

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 trucks a day in January, adding: “The number of trucks entering Gaza remains well below the target of 500 per day.”