US makes its first Gaza aid airdrop as mediators to seek truce deal

March 3, 2024 8:20 am

A US Air Force loadmaster releases humanitarian aid pallets of food and water over Gaza [Source: Reuters]

The United States on Saturday carried out the first of what it said would be a series of humanitarian airdrops of food into Gaza, as aid agencies warned of a growing humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave in the absence of a ceasefire deal.

Three C-130 U.S. military planes delivered more than 38,000 meals into a territory where the United Nations says at least 576,000 people are one step away from famine conditions. Palestinians posted videos on social media showing boxes of aid being dropped. Jordanian forces also participated in the operation.

The White House has said the airdrops would be a sustained effort, and that Israel supports them. Critics say airdrops are far less effective than aid deliveries by truck, and it is nearly impossible to ensure supplies do not end up with militants.

Article continues after advertisement

With talks in Egypt set to resume on Sunday, a senior U.S. official said the framework for a deal on a six-week ceasefire was in place, with Israel’s agreement, and depended on the militant group Hamas agreeing to release hostages.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will meet Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz at the White House on Monday, a White House official told Reuters.

In Jerusalem, thousands of Israelis marched to demand the release of about 134 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Protesters, led by families of hostages seized during Hamas’ deadly rampage through southern Israel on Oct. 7, arrived at the city at sundown.

In Gaza, the health ministry said at least 11 Palestinians were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit a tent in Rafah, where people are seeking sanctuary from Israel’s offensive.

The ministry said another 50 people were wounded in the strike next to a hospital. One of the dead was a medic at the hospital. In an apparent reference to the same incident, the Israeli military said the strike was conducted against “Islamic Jihad terrorists.”

The Israeli military said its forces killed eight militants in Khan Younis, around 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, fleeing an Israeli offensive that has laid waste to much of Gaza, killing more than 30,000 people, according to the Hamas-run enclave’s health authorities.

Israel launched the offensive in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, in which 1,200 people were killed in Israel and another 253 abducted, according to Israeli tallies.