In Gaza, Desperately Needed Airdrops Are Fatally Botched

Pentagon said parachute issues caused bundles to fall into the sea, where drownings were reported
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2024 11:05 AM CDT
Report: 18 Die in Gaza Trying to Reach Airdropped Aid
Humanitarian aid is airdropped to Palestinians over Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Monday, March 25, 2024.   (AP Photo/Mahmoud Essa)

Crowds race across a beach in north Gaza, watching as boxes of aid dropped from the sky miss their target and fall into the Mediterranean Sea. Despite large waves pounding the shore, people venture into the sea after the US-dropped food they so desperately need. "It is a famine, what can we do?" one man told AFP before showing off a can of tuna he obtained. Not everyone was so lucky. At least 12 people drowned at the beach in Beit Lahia on Monday and another six were trampled to death, Palestinian health authorities said Tuesday, per the BBC. Reuters shared video of a man's lifeless body pulled up onto the sand, eyes starring blankly. "He swam to get food for his children," a witness said. Of the airdrop, the man added, "Why are they doing this to us?"

The Pentagon—which said parachute malfunctions caused three of 80 aid bundles to fall into the sea Monday, per the New York Times—began airdropping aid to Gaza this month following disruptions of land deliveries, including the killing of more than 100 people who waited near an aid convoy in February. More recently, Israel has accused the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) of complicity with Hamas and banned it from delivering aid in northern Gaza, leaving thousands to suffer a "cruel death by famine," according to the UN humanitarian office. The UN secretary-general has described Israel's blocking of aid trucks as "a moral outrage."

Yet Monday's deaths have only added to criticism of airdrops, which were alleged to have crushed five people in Gaza to death earlier this month, per the Times. Aid agencies have said such drops are costly and ineffective. "These tragic reports coming from Gaza are yet another indication that the most efficient, fastest, safest way to reach people with much-needed humanitarian assistance is via road and via the humanitarian organizations including UNRWA who are working on the ground," UNRWA communications chief Juliette Touma tells Reuters. The Palestinian health authority, which is run by Hamas, also called for an end to "offensive, wrong, inappropriate, and useless" airdrops Tuesday and an increase in aid deliveries by land, per the BBC and the Times. (More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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