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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Aid drop kills five in Gaza

Waiting Palestinians were crushed by a food package after its parachute malfunctioned

Five people, including two children, were killed by a malfunctioning airdrop in Gaza on Friday, the local health ministry has said. They were reportedly crushed by a pallet of food supplies when its parachute failed to properly deploy.

US, French, Dutch, Belgian, Jordanian and Egyptian transport planes dropped pallets of military rations on Gaza during the day, in an attempt to relieve the conditions the UN has described as impending famine. Israel has not allowed trucks with food and fuel into the Palestinian enclave for months.

Read more: US to build temporary port to deliver Gaza aid

The incident happened around 11:30 am local time in the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, CBS News and Al Jazeera reported, quoting local officials and eyewitnesses. Eleven more people were injured.

An anonymous US official told CBS that an “initial review” suggested the pallet that caused the deaths was not dropped by an American plane, but said further investigation would be needed.

The State Department has not yet commented on the report of deaths, which has not been verified by the UN.

Videos circulating on social media showed one of the aid packages dropping far faster than others, with its parachute tangled up and not fully opened.

Read more: Gaza’s Starving Children Poisoned by Forage Amid Israeli Siege

Friday’s drop was the second this week, mainly consisting of dehydrated Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) rations intended for the battlefield or disaster areas. The airdrops amount to less than 40,000 meals a day and are nowhere near enough for over two million people who live in Gaza, the UN has warned.

“Dropping aid in this way is flashy propaganda rather than a humanitarian service,” said the media office for the local government in Gaza, run by the militant group Hamas. “We previously warned it poses a threat to the lives of citizens in the Gaza Strip, and this is what happened today when the parcels fell on the citizens’ heads.”

Hamas urged the reopening of land crossings, condemning the airdrops as “useless and not the best way to bring aid in.”

According to the group, more than 700,000 Palestinians in the enclave are facing “extreme hunger” and at least 20 have starved to death already.

Almost 90% of Gaza’s pre-war population have become refugees, with UN aid chief Martin Griffiths warning last week that life is “draining out of Gaza at terrifying speed.”

Israel declared war on Hamas after the Gaza-based militants unexpectedly attacked nearby settlements on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Dozens of captives were subsequently released during a weeklong ceasefire in November.

Since then, more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed and another 70,000 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry. Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire, insisting on its goal to completely “eliminate” Hamas in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces and the government have rejected accusations of “genocide” and argue that Hamas is using Palestinian civilians as human shields.