Biden Orders Airdrops to Expand Humanitarian Deliveries to Embattled Gaza

The U.S. government will begin airdropping humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip in hopes of widening the flow of critical supplies to civilians in the embattled territory.

Speaking at a White House meeting on Friday, President Joe Biden said the United States would join the Kingdom of Jordan and other neighboring countries that have delivered humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip by air after the outbreak of fighting in the territory.

The U.S. president said his administration would look for additional avenues to speed the flow of humanitarian supplies into the territory, “including the possibility of a marine corridor.” The Gaza Strip is bordered to the west by the Mediterranean Sea.

President Biden’s moves to expand humanitarian aid came a day after a chaotic incident in which dozens of people were killed, and hundreds more were injured amid reports of gunfire and stampeding as a convoy of trucks delivered supplies overland along the Nabulsi roundabout in north Gaza. There are conflicting claims about what caused these deaths and injuries, with the Israeli government attributing many of the casualties to people being trampled as a crowd beset the aid trucks and looted the supplies. Other reports suggest people in the crowd were killed when Israel Defense Force (IDF) members lining the humanitarian corridor fired their weapons.

While the exact circumstances are still unclear and under investigation, Egyptian, Jordanian, and Saudi Arabian foreign ministry officials placed much of the blame for the injuries and deaths on the Israeli forces in their initial reactions to the chaotic incident.

“The loss of life is heartbreaking,” President Biden said on Friday while discussing humanitarian aid and the incident along the Nabulsi roundabout. “People are so desperate that innocent people got caught in a terrible war unable to feed their families, and you saw the response when they tried to get aid in.”

Assessing both the deadly incident at the Nabulsi roundabout and the overall humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, President Biden said “we need to do more and the United States will do more.”

The president said humanitarian efforts in the Gaza Strip need to be sustained by hundreds of supply trucks but said residents there have received “just several.”

“The truth is aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough now. It’s nowhere nearly enough,” he said. “Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line and we won’t stand by.”

New Allegations Follow Deadly Aid Delivery

Addressing the chaotic incident on Thursday evening, IDF Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, said IDF soldiers and tanks had lined the humanitarian aid corridor near the Nabulsi roundabout.

“Thousands of Gazans dispensed upon the trucks. Some began violently pushing and even trampling other Gazans to death looting the humanitarian supplies,” Mr. Hagari said. “The unfortunate incident resulted in dozens of Gazans killed and injured.”

The Israeli military officer said as the crowds were first seen swarming around the convoy of about 30 delivery trucks, Israeli tanks “cautiously tried to disperse the mob with a few warning shots,” but later backed away as the chaotic crowd continued. He said no further IDF strike was conducted on the aid convoy.

Axios previously reported, citing an IDF official, that Israeli troops fired some warning shots as the crowds closed in on them and then fired at the legs of those who continued to approach. This IDF official said around ten civilians were hit by the Israeli soldiers’ fire, a casualty assessment also shared with The Times of Israel.

As of Friday, health officials in Gaza have assessed 115 people were killed and more than 750 others were injured.

Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda Hospital, told The Associated Press that of the 176 wounded brought to the hospital, 142 had gunshot wounds, and the other 34 showed injuries from a stampede.

Dr. Husam Abu Safyia, director of Kamal Adwan Hospital in the Gaza Strip, separately told The Associated Press that the majority of the injured brought to his hospital had sustained gunshot wounds to the upper parts of their bodies, with multiple individuals dying with gunshot wounds to the head, neck, or chest.

The Humanitarian Situation in Gaza

The Gaza Strip has been a battle zone since October. The fighting there began after Hamas gunmen breached the Gaza-Israel barrier on Oct. 7 and carried out a series of attacks across southern Israel, resulting in more than 1,100 people killed, thousands more injured, and around 250 taken back to Gaza as hostages.

In the days following the Oct. 7 attack, Israeli forces blockaded the territory. Israeli forces also began a campaign of air strikes, followed by a ground invasion of the territory.

The exact number of civilian casualties resulting from the ongoing fighting cannot be immediately verified.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, which operates under the auspices of Hamas’ political control of the Gaza Strip, more than 30,000 Gazans have been killed, and more than 71,000 have been injured. The Gaza Health Ministry does not clearly distinguish between lawful combatants and non-combatants.

According to a statement organized last week by various United Nations agencies and international non-profits, those killed and wounded in the Gaza Strip consist mostly of women and children. The joint statement also estimates more than three-quarters of Gaza’s population have been displaced, some more than once, and face shortages of food, water, sanitation, and healthcare. The statement further assessed there have been more than 370 attacks impacting healthcare sights in the Gaza Strip, and just 12 of 36 inpatient hospitals in the territory remain even partially functional at this point.

President Biden has seen growing pressure, including from his fellow Democrats, to do more to help the Palestinians. Several Democrats have urged a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict and have sought to attach humanitarian compliance controls to new rounds of U.S. military aid for Israel.

On Wednesday, Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Angus King (I-Maine) sent a letter to President Biden, urging his administration to deploy a military hospital ship to treat injured Gazans and to open a sea route for new humanitarian aid deliveries.

Addressing the Nabulsi roundabout incident on Thursday evening, Mr. Hagari said Israel’s war is with Hamas, not the people of Gaza, and Israel is seeking to expand humanitarian efforts.

“Hamas started this war when it massacred and kidnapped Israeli civilians on October 7, and then went back into Gaza and hid behind the Gazan civilians, using them as a human shield,” he said. “We recognize the suffering of the innocent people of Gaza. This is why we are seeking ways to expand our humanitarian efforts.”

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