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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

US airdropped aid into Gaza; groups blame Israel for deadly food line clash: Updates

The United States began airdropping humanitarian aid into the stricken Gaza Strip on Saturday, days after over 100 Palestinians were killed when witnesses said Israeli forces fired at people waiting for food in Gaza City.

U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes, along with Jordan's air force, conducted airdrops of humanitarian aid into Gaza for two hours on Saturday, according to U.S. Central Command. The planes dropped over 38,000 meals along the coastline of Gaza allowing for civilian access to the critical aid.

The Pentagon is planning for future airborne aid drops, according to a statement from Central Command. The parachute-borne packages have been packed so that they can be dropped safely in populated areas.

President Joe Biden announced Friday that the airdrops would begin, saying the U.S. would join Jordan and other countries to provide the airdrops of supplies, and would look to open up other avenues for delivering support. Residents of Gaza, overwhelmingly displaced due to Israel's ground offensive targeting Hamas, have suffered an ongoing humanitarian crisis with little access to food and critical supplies.

Humanitarian group officials have said airdrops aren't an efficient way to distribute aid and are a measure of last resort.

"Innocent people got caught in a terrible war unable to feed their families, and you saw the response when they tried to get aid," Biden said. "But we need to do more, and the United States will do more."

Israel has denied that its military caused most of the deaths in Gaza City on Thursday during food distribution. According to spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, troops only fired warning shots when huge crowds of people surged. The military in a statement said dozens of Gazans were wounded as a result of "overcrowding, crowding and trampling."

"We didn’t open fire on those seeking aid," Hagari said. "Contrary to the accusations, we didn’t open fire on a humanitarian aid convoy, not from the air and not from land."

Palestinian health officials said most of the people treated at Al-Awda Hospital had been shot. The Health Ministry in Gaza said Saturday that two more bodies had been recovered from the scene, bringing the total dead to 118. About 760 were injured.

Over 30,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza since the start of the war after Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage.

Palestinians stand amid the rubble of a mosque that was destroyed in Israeli strikes in Deir El-Balah in central Gaza on March 2, 2024, as battles continue between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

Latest developments:

∎ Seven Hezbollah members were killed in separate Israeli strikes overnight and early Saturday, Lebanese officials and media said.

∎ An Israeli airstrike on Saturday struck tents outside the Emirati hospital in Rafah, killing 11 people and wounding about 50, including health workers, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.

Israel open to potential cease-fire deal, US officials say

Israel has essentially agreed to a six-week ceasefire in Gaza that would include the release of hostages, and negotiators are now waiting for Hamas to sign off on the deal, U.S. officials said Saturday.

“The ball is literally in the court of Hamas,” one official said.

The Israelis “have more or less accepted” the framework of a deal that would include a six-week ceasefire and the release of vulnerable hostages, including women, children and those who are elderly or wounded, said senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Biden said Friday he hopes that a deal can be in place by the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins March 10. Biden is under pressure to call for a ceasefire as hunger and disease spread in Gaza after months of attacks by Israel following the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Hamas has yet to agree to the terms of the deal, officials said.

US officials: Looting has hampered deliveries of humanitarian assistance in Gaza

Efforts to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza over the ground have been complicated by criminal gangs looting trucks carrying the commodities and selling them, U.S. officials said Saturday.

Police and other security officials have been removed from multiple routes into the region, leaving convoys carrying humanitarian aid vulnerable to attacks, senior administration officials said.

The U.S. believes that airdropping assistance into Gaza, which began on Saturday, will help get the goods to the people who need them and avoid further looting, the officials said.

Large number of Palestinians killed, wounded were shot, groups say

The European Union's diplomatic service on Saturday urged for an international investigation into the chaotic surge for food in Gaza and actions by the Israeli military, saying that many of the people killed or wounded were hit by Israeli fire.

“The responsibility for this incident lays on the restrictions imposed by the Israeli army and obstructions by violent extremist(s) to the supply of humanitarian aid,” the European External Action Service said.

A United Nations team that visited Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported "a large number of gunshot wounds" among the more than 200 people being treated there after the violence, the U.N. said.

Hundreds of people rushed about 30 trucks delivering food and aid to the north Thursday.

Ahmed Abdel Karim, who was treated for gunshot wounds to his feet, told the Associated Press he had been waiting for the aid trucks for two days, and was shot by Israeli troops.

"Everyone attacked and advanced on these trucks. Because of the large number, I could not get flour,” he said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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