US begins Gaza aid airdrops after Joe Biden rebukes Israel

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The US has begun to airdrop food into Gaza, the day after Joe Biden rebuked Israel, saying it had “no excuses” for failing to allow more aid into the besieged enclave.

The US military said on Saturday that it had dropped “over 38,000 meals along the coastline of Gaza”.

In a statement posted on social media site X, US Central Command said the operation, carried out in conjunction with Jordan’s air force, was “part of a sustained effort to get more aid into Gaza”. It is planning further aid missions, it said.

The drops, and Biden’s remarks, come amid an acute humanitarian crisis in Gaza after months of Israeli attacks and highlight the US president’s deepening frustration with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We need to do more and the United States will do more,” Biden said.

He added that the US was also exploring the possibility of opening “a marine corridor delivering large amounts of humanitarian assistance”.

The US decision to begin airdrops was announced a day after more than 100 Palestinians were killed during a chaotic attempt to supply aid to civilians in northern Gaza. Palestinian authorities said Israeli troops opened fire on the crowds as they surged towards the food. Israel said some people were killed in a rush to the aid trucks.

“We’re going to insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need,” Biden said. “No excuses, because the truth is aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough now.”

Netanyahu has resisted US calls to rein in Israel’s military and do more to help civilians in Gaza. On Friday, Biden said Washington was still pressing for a six-week ceasefire deal that included the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli jails and greater humanitarian assistance.

“Hopefully we will know shortly,” Biden said.

US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that the airdrops were “part of a larger, longer sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance . . . a supplement to, not a replacement for, moving things in by ground”.

Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have also airdropped assistance into Gaza.

The UN has warned that a quarter of Gaza’s population of more than 2mn is on the brink of famine. Aid deliveries to Gaza, especially in the north, have slowed to a trickle and descended into chaos amid lawlessness and looting.

Trucks with aid enter the Gaza strip via Egypt and through an Israeli border crossing, but the Israeli military has opened fire on some humanitarian convoys while Palestinian police are refusing to guard deliveries after an air strike on a shipment.

Israel’s military offensive has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health authorities, and has created near-impossible conditions for aid deliveries.

Biden said: “Innocent people got caught in a terrible war unable to feed their families and you saw the response when they tried to get aid.”

Israel’s assault was triggered by a Hamas attack on October 7 that claimed the lives of 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

Efforts to halt the war in Gaza to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas have not yet delivered a breakthrough despite pressure from the US, Qatar and Egypt.

Biden is also under domestic political pressure over his handling of the war between Israel and Hamas and to do more to press Israel to end it.

In Michigan, which was a crucial state that helped Biden win the 2020 election, more than 100,000 people cast uncommitted protest ballots this week during the Democratic primary, in a sign of anger at White House support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

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