Middle East Crisis: Second Day of Aid Airdrops Underlines Urgency of Need for Gazans

Jordan stepped up coordination with international partners to airdrop food and other supplies to Gazans this week, in a defiant effort that underscored the desperate need in Gaza, as aid groups have warned of growing restrictions on their ability. to distribute supplies.

Aircraft from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and France joined a Jordanian airdrop operation along the Gaza coast on Tuesday, the Jordanian military said in a statement. It was the first time Egypt had airdropped aid to Gaza since the start of the war, and it also appeared to be a first for the United Arab Emirates.

Jordanian and French planes also airdropped aid on Monday, dropping prepared meals and other supplies over several sites in Gaza, the Jordanian military said.

Aid groups often send supplies by air only as a last resortgiven the inefficiency and relative cost of the method compared to road deliveries, as well as the dangers of navigating the airspace over a conflict zone and the risk to people who could be affected when supplies fall to the ground if not A safe launch zone can be established. be established.

Some of the aid delivered on Monday was dropped by parachute over the sea, but the Jordanian military said some of the aid was dropped without them on Tuesday, forcing planes to fly at a lower altitude.

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Large crowds gathered along the coast in Deir al Balah on Monday as Jordan and France airdropped food and other relief supplies, some of which ended up in the sea.CreditCredit…Alaa Fayad, via X

Despite the limitations on airdrops, France said it was stepping up its work with Jordan because the “humanitarian situation in Gaza is absolutely urgent,” according to a statement from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“With increasing numbers of civilians in Gaza dying of hunger and disease,” the statement said, there needs to be more avenues for aid delivery, including Israel’s Ashdod port, north of Gaza.

Video footage on Monday showed a group of parachutes falling into the sea near Deir al Balah, a city in central Gaza. Men in small boats paddled through choppy waters to retrieve aid, watched by a crowd of hundreds of people struggling to collect the packages once they reached shore.

Alaa Fayad, a veterinary student who filmed footage of the beach scene that he posted online, said the help was no big deal. “It was sad to see people I know well running and crowding to get help that is not enough,” she said.

The French Air Force plane that took part in Monday’s drop, along with three planes from its Jordanian counterpart, dropped more than two tons of food and hygiene supplies, the French Foreign Ministry said.

That amount is far less than can be transported in a single supply truck and generally represents only a fraction of what the United Nations says Gaza’s more than two million residents need.

Video

Jordanian planes dropped food and medical supplies by parachute into central and southern Gaza. People were seen rowing boats to collect aid thrown into the sea.CreditCredit…Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Jordan began airdropping aid in November and has since completed more than a dozen missions, largely to resupply its field hospitals in Gaza. At least one joint airdrop mission was carried out in January with France, another with the Netherlands in February, and another with help provided by Brittany last week.

In previous airdrops, Jordan said it had coordinated its efforts with Israeli authorities, who have insisted on inspecting all aid entering Gaza. The Israeli military confirmed it had approved Monday’s airdrop.

Calls for internationally coordinated airdrops have intensified as aid groups simultaneously warn that the hunger crisis in Gaza is reaching a tipping point and that some obstacles to traditional aid distribution have become insurmountable.

Last week, the World Food Program suspended food deliveries to northern Gaza, saying that despite dire needs there, it could not operate safely amid gunfire and the “collapse of civil order” in the last days. The WFP and other United Nations aid agencies have repeatedly warned that Israeli authorities are systematically preventing their access to northern Gaza, and have called on the government to ease their restrictions. Israel has denied blocking aid deliveries.

The suspension of WFP deliveries in an area where it is most needed indicates that, despite its many limitations, airdrops may be one of the few viable options left to quickly bring food to northern Gaza, according to Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib , Middle East policy analyst. who grew up in the enclave. Jordan’s airdrops, he said, have set a “critical precedent” for the viability of the approach.

“It is not enough to wish for a ceasefire or simply wish for better Israeli cooperation,” said Fouad Alkhatib. “We need action right now.”

Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Nader Ibrahim contributed with reports.