War on Gaza: US plans to airdrop aid for Palestine—will it work?

A day before 115 were killed, over 750 injured around a ground convoy. Amidst global outrage, EU to resume support for UNRWA activities

Humanitarian aid from the US on its way to the Gaza Strip for air drops (photo: DW)
Humanitarian aid from the US on its way to the Gaza Strip for air drops (photo: DW)


  • US to join efforts to airdrop humanitarian aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip

  • EU has agreed to continue sending aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA

  • More than 100 people died and many more were wounded in the incident, Gaza health officials said, with Israeli and Palestinian accounts of what happened diverging

  • The UN chief and several countries have called for an independent investigation of the incident

Biden says US military will airdrop aid to Palestinians in Gaza

The United States plans to begin airdrops of aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip in the coming days, President Joe Biden announced on Friday, 1 March.

"We're going to join with our friends in providing airdrops," Biden told reporters at the White House.

He also said the flow of aid into Gaza was insufficient and that he wanted hundreds more aid trucks to get into the enclave.

"Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere near enough," Biden added. "Innocent lives are on the line and children's lives are on the line."

Israel supported the international airdrop efforts, according to White House spokesperson John Kirby.

"The Israelis have tried airdrops themselves and they're supportive of our efforts to do the same," he said.

Biden announced the move after at least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others wounded on Thursday, 29 February, according to Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry, when witnesses said nearby Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds rushed to pull goods from an aid convoy.

Jordan has been leading airdrops over Gaza since the war broke out in collaboration with Israel. Recently, other countries have joined these operations, including France, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Thursday that her country also wanted to be involved in the humanitarian airdrop efforts.

Jordan airdrops food aid into northern Gaza

Jordan's armed forces said three of its air force planes on Friday dropped food aid into the northern Gaza Strip.

The packages were expected to help roughly 6,000 people, Jordan's al-Mamlaka television reported.

Jordan has been leading operations to airdrop humanitarian relief and food aid into the Gaza Strip since the war broke out and collaborated the drops with Israel, which checks the aid that does reach Palestinians.

Other countries, including France, the UK, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, have recently taken part in these operations.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement Thursday that Germany also wanted to participate in airdropping food and other aid into the Gaza Strip.

South Africa condemns Israel over deaths of Palestinians waiting for aid

South Africa said the killing of people as they crowded around aid trucks in Gaza breached an order from the UN's top court for Israel to prevent genocide against Palestinians.

At least 112 Palestinians were killed and hundreds injured in the incident that Hamas and eyewitnesses blamed on Israeli gunfire, and Israeli officials blamed a stampede near the aid convoy.

"This latest atrocity is another breach of international law and in breach of the binding provisional orders of the ICJ," South Africa's Department for International Relations and Cooperation said.

In a case brought by South Africa, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel in January to take all measures within its power to prevent its troops from committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza but did not demand a halt to the Israeli military operation in Gaza. Israel has rejected accusations of committing genocide and said it has the right to defend itself following terror attacks by Hamas militants on October 7.

On Friday, South Africa said, "legal remedies are not sufficient though, and the international community must now consider other measures."

"A first step is an unconditional call for a cease-fire by the United Nations Security Council. An immediate and unconditional call for a cease-fire is now a moral and life-saving necessity," it said.

UN officials warn of 'desperate situation' on food in Gaza

Two UN officials said in Geneva on Friday that the food situation in Gaza remained "dire" with hospitals already having formally attributed a handful of deaths to malnutrition.

"If something doesn't change, a famine is almost inevitable on the current trends," said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.

Laerke said that while a famine had not been formally declared in Gaza, by the time that happens, "it is too late for many people."

"We don't want to get to that situation, and we need things to change before that," he said.

Christian Lindmeier from the World Health Organization said that according to statistics compiled by the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, 10 children had been "officially registered, in a hospital, as having starved to death."

He said the shortages had created a "desperate situation," as evidenced on Thursday when more than 100 people were killed in a crowd trying to access a convoy of humanitarian aid.

"People are so desperate for food, for fresh water, for any supplies that they risk their lives in getting food, any supplies to support their children, to support themselves," Lindmeier said.

Much of Gaza's internal food supply is dependent on the fishing industry, which Laerke said had "completely stopped" amid the fighting.

European Commission releases only part of aid payment to UNRWA

The European Commission will only release part of planned aid payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) due to concerns over the alleged role of some agency staff in the Hamas attacks on Israel.

In a statement, the Commission said it would release €50 million ($54 million) on Friday and the rest of the €82 million payments in two more payments over the rest of the year.

The Commission also announced a further €68 million in aid to other organizations in the region, including the Red Cross and the Red Crescent.

"Innocent Palestinians should not have to pay the price for the crimes of terrorist group Hamas," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Israel claims 12 of UNRWA's estimated 13,000 employees were involved in the Hamas-led terror attacks on the country on October 7.

The agency immediately fired the employees, but more than a dozen countries suspended funding worth about €416 million, almost half its budget for 2024.

The agency, warned its operations across the Middle East would be "severely compromised" from this month due to a lack of funding.

UNRWA provides essential government services in Gaza, including running 278 schools for 280,000 children and 22 primary healthcare centres, while also providing food to the approximately 2 million people who have been under siege by Israel since early October.

Based on commitments from UNRWA to carry out this investigation and to review safeguards to prevent staff's involvement in terrorist activities, the commission said it decided to release the funding.

EU's von der Leyen 'deeply disturbed' by Gaza aid convoy deaths

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was "deeply disturbed by images from Gaza," where Gaza health officials said more than 100 Palestinians were killed and more than 700 injured during an aid delivery.

Hamas authorities accused Israel of firing on people gathered to pick up the assistance, but Israel said they died in a crash after its troops fired warning shots.

"Every effort must be made to investigate what happened and ensure transparency," von der Leyen wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"We stand by civilians, urging their protection in line with international law," she added.

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell earlier denounced the incident as a "carnage."

Deaths of over 100 aid seeking Gazans will need independent investigation: UN chief

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said that the deaths of more than 100 people, who were shot at by Israeli troops while they were rushing to get humanitarian aid in Gaza, will require an effective independent investigation.

Guterres had already condemned the incident and said he was "shocked" by it.

The situation "would require an effective independent investigation," into how the deaths occurred and who was responsible, he said while speaking in St. Vincent and the Grenadines ahead of a regional summit.

A situation of "stampede" developed when thousands of starving Palestinians rushed to get food aid packages from a convoy of 38 aid trucks, the Israeli military said.

According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, at least 112 people were killed and 760 were injured when the Israeli military opened fire on aid-seeking Palestinians on Thursday.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN urged the Security Council in a meeting on Thursday to condemn the incident.

"The Security Council should say enough is enough," he told the media before the meeting.

The entire population in Gaza is at risk of famine, according to aid agencies as Israel has severely restricted the flow of aid into the enclave since October 7 when Hamas — considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, Germany and others — killed over 1,000 Israelis and took hundreds of people hostage.

Germany calls for full Israeli investigation of deadly convoy incident

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has called for a humanitarian cease-fire to prevent further deaths in Gaza.

She said she was shocked by the deaths of more than 100 Palestinians during an aid delivery in Gaza.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, accused Israel of firing on people gathered to pick up the assistance, but Israel said they died in a crash after its troops fired warning shots.

"The Israeli army must fully investigate how the mass panic and shooting could have happened," Baerbock wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

She also said more humanitarian aid should be allowed into the territory and that a cease-fire would make it safer to deliver aid.

Baerbock also said Hamas should release the remaining Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.

International condemnation and calls for clarity after aid convoy deaths

Several world leaders condemned the deaths of people looking to access a large aid convoy in Gaza City, calling for an investigation into the incident and saying it underscored the need for a cease-fire in Gaza.

French President Emmanuel Macron said early on Friday that a cease-fire was necessary to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid.

"Deep indignation at the images coming from Gaza where civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers. I express my strongest condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice, and respect for international law," Macron wrote online.

The White House called the incident "tremendously alarming," while State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the US was "urgently seeking additional information on exactly what took place."

Israeli and Palestinian accounts of the incident and the main cause for the casualties differ.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry said that the deaths constituted "another crime against humanity," and said it showed Israel "aims consciously and collectively to destroy the Palestinian people."

Colombian President Gustavo Petro spoke of "genocide" against the Palestinian people and suspended purchases of military equipment from Israel.

The Spanish and Italian foreign ministries both said the incident showed the urgency of agreeing to a cease-fire and better provision of aid. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed "deep dismay and concern."

China 'strongly condemns' aid convoy deaths

China's Foreign Ministry on Friday criticized the deaths near an aid convoy delivery in Gaza City early on Thursday morning.

"China is shocked by this incident and strongly condemns it," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said. "We express our grief for the victims and our sympathies for the injured."

There were conflicting reports on precisely how the pre-dawn incident unfolded.

Authorities in Gaza said 108 were killed and more than 700 injured, attributing the deaths to Israeli troops opening fire on people gathered to try to pick up the assistance from a 38-truck convoy. Israel's military meanwhile attributed most of the casualties to a "stampede" and to people being run over by vehicles, while also acknowledging that its troops had opened fire, saying it was still investigating the details.

"China urges the relevant parties, especially Israel, to cease fire and end the fighting immediately, earnestly protect civilians' safety, ensure that humanitarian aid can enter, and avoid an even more serious humanitarian disaster," Mao said.

Hamas claims 7 hostages more killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza

Seven more hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have died as a result of Israeli bombings, a spokesperson for the group's armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said on Friday.

Abu Ubaida said the causes of death were determined "after examination and scrutiny during recent weeks." It was not immediately clear when the seven people died.

The announcement brings the total number of hostages reportedly killed by Israeli strikes to 70, according to the militant group's tally.

The claims could not be independently verified.

Hamas kidnapped around 250 people from Israel during the October 7 terrorist attacks that left about 1,200 people dead. Israel estimates that about 130 of the hostages are still held captive in Gaza.

Before Friday's announcement, Israel said 31 of the captives were presumed dead.

During a short pause in the fighting in November, about 105 hostages were released in exchange for Israel releasing about 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, the EU, Germany and others.

Iranian officer reportedly killed in Syria strikes

A member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard was allegedly killed in a suspected Israeli strike in Syria, Iranian official state media reported on Friday.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor reported three explosions in the port town of Baniyas.

It said the explosions were part of Israeli strikes on a villa that sheltered "a group affiliated with Iran."

Hospital sources told Germany's DPA news agency that three people were killed in total, and nine others were injured.

Iranian state news agency IRNA identified one of the dead as Colonel Reza Zarei, who was in Syria on an advisory mission. IRNA also attributed the strikes to Israel.

A senior pro-Damascus security source also told the Reuters news agency that Zarei was killed in a strike in the Tartus region.

When asked about the strike, the Israeli military said it did not comment on foreign reports.

Egypt's foreign minister 'hopeful' of cease-fire before Ramadan

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Friday that Egypt was still hopeful talks initiated by Qatar could at least temporarily lead to a halt in the fighting in Gaza before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"We are hopeful that we can reach a cessation of hostilities and exchange of hostages. Everyone recognizes that we have a time limit to be successful before the start of Ramadan," Shoukry said at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey on Friday.

Ramadan is expected to begin this year as the sun sets on the evening of March 10, with four weeks of daytime fasting beginning the following day.

The negotiations are taking place in Paris and also involve the US and other participants.

"I can say that we have reached a point of understanding, we will still exert every effort with our brothers in Qatar and the US and others close to the negotiations," Shoukry said.

Observers have warned that issues like continued restrictions on access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem during the holy month could intensify tensions in the region.

Polls open in Iran for vote likely to bolster conservatives

Iranians are electing members of parliament and a key clerical body on Friday.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was among the first to cast a vote on Friday morning. He has accused the country's "enemies," a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel, of seeking to sow disillusionment among Iranian voters.

Iran severed all ties with Israel after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and relations between the two countries have been extremely poor for decades, with the tension often exacerbated during periods of conflict with Palestinians.

msh, mf/ab (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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