US Airdrops 35,000 Meals and Aid Into Gaza

The United States military airdropped food and aid over Gaza — the first round of emergency humanitarian assistance authorized by President Joe Biden, U.S. officials said.

Palestinians posted videos on social media showing boxes of aid being dropped by U.S. military C-130 cargo planes. The first stage of the humanitarian operation saw more than 35,000 meals and aid airdropped on pallets into the enclave, where the United Nations reports one-quarter of the population is just one step from famine.

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

The militaries of Jordan and Egypt said they also have conducted airdrops.

Biden gave the go-ahead to the humanitarian operation, the first of many, after at least 115 Palestinians were killed while swarming to get supplies from the aid convoys being delivered Thursday. Hundreds more were injured in the chaotic situation, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

International calls for an investigation have grown as questions persist a day after the incident involving Israeli soldiers and people seeking aid in northern Gaza.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday an "effective independent investigation" is necessary to understand the causes and who was responsible for the horrific events. A White House spokesperson also said the event "needs to be thoroughly investigated.’

In this image grab from an AFPTV video, people gather around food parcels that were airdropped from US aircraft above a beach in the Gaza Strip on March 2, 2024. In this image grab from an AFPTV video, people gather around food parcels that were airdropped from US aircraft above a beach in the Gaza Strip on March 2, 2024.

Palestinian witnesses accused Israeli troops of opening fire on a mass gathering of people waiting to collect aid from an approaching convoy. Israel disputes the account, saying scores of people trampled each other and were run over by the fleeing aid trucks. A military spokesman said their troops fired only "a few warning shots" to disperse the people.

"No IDF strike was conducted towards the aid convoy," Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a video posted on the social media platform X on Thursday. He said Israeli tanks were present to secure a humanitarian corridor for the 38-truck private convoy to pass.

Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour called the incident an "outrageous massacre."

"According to the information that we have, dozens of them have bullets in their heads," he told reporters Thursday of the people who were at the scene. "It’s not like firing at the sky to restrain people if there was confusion and chaos. It was intentionally targeting and killing."

International reaction

The European Union’s diplomatic service on Saturday urged an international investigation into the incident.

The European External Action Service blamed the crisis on "restrictions imposed by the Israeli army and obstructions by violent extremist[s] to the supply of humanitarian aid."

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the shootings, saying civilians must be protected. He called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

"There must be an urgent investigation and accountability," British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a statement. "This must not happen again."

Cameron said Israel has an obligation to ensure "significantly more humanitarian aid" reaches Gazans. He called on the government to open more crossings into Gaza and eliminate bureaucratic obstacles.

Germany’s foreign minister expressed shock about the reports.

"The Israeli army must fully explain how the mass panic and shooting could have happened," Annalena Baerbock said Friday on X. She, too, called for a cease-fire so civilian lives would not be lost, hostages held by Hamas could be released and aid could be distributed safely.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she was "deeply disturbed by images from Gaza," saying in a post on X that every effort must be made to investigate what happened."

Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan condemned Israeli forces for firing on the Palestinians waiting for the delivery of aid.

Turkey’s foreign ministry accused Israel of using ‘starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza’ and said Thursday’s incident is ‘yet another crime against humanity.’

Biden expressed concerns Thursday that the deadly convoy incident could hurt ongoing negotiations to free the remaining hostages held by Hamas and achieve a six-week-long cease-fire.

The latest violence pushed the Palestinian death toll in the nearly five-month war to more than 30,000, with another 71,000 injured and many more missing under the rubble, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Hunger in Gaza

Outrage is also growing over the anguish of hundreds of thousands struggling to survive in northern Gaza.

Residents in northern Gaza say they are scouring piles of rubble and garbage for anything to feed their children, who barely eat one meal a day. Many families have begun mixing animal and bird food with grain to bake bread. International aid officials say they have encountered catastrophic hunger.

At least 10 children have starved to death, according to hospital records in Gaza, the World Health Organization said.

"We’re dying from starvation," said Soad Abu Hussein, a widow and mother of five children who has taken shelter in a school in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Palestinians sit amid tents and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024. Palestinians sit amid tents and makeshift shelters that were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024.

Cease-fire doubts

With doubts surrounding the resumption of cease-fire talks in Egypt scheduled for Sunday, the health ministry in the Gaza Strip said at least 11 Palestinians were killed Saturday when an Israeli airstrike hit a tent in Rafah, where people are seeking sanctuary from Israel’s military offensive.

The Gaza Health Ministry said another 50 people were wounded in the strike next to a hospital in the Tel al-Sultan area of Rafah. One of the dead was a medic at the hospital. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

’The strike hit one tent, where people took shelter, directly. Shrapnel came inside the hospital where me and friends were sitting. We survived by a miracle,’ a witness told Reuters by phone from the area, declining to be identified.

The Israeli military said its forces killed eight militants in Khan Younis, about 20 militants in the central Gaza Strip and three more in Rimal, near Gaza City.

More than a million Palestinians have been seeking refuge in the Rafah area.

Biden has said he hopes a cease-fire will be in place by the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on March 10. Speaking to reporters on Friday, he said, ‘We’re not there yet.’

Israel launched the offensive in response to the October 7 terror attack by the Palestinian militant group, in which 1,200 people were killed in Israel and another 253 abducted, according to Israeli tallies.

VOA United Nations Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. Some information was provided by The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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