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US President Joe Biden made the announcement at the White House today. Alamy Stock Photo
Humanitarian Assistance

Joe Biden says US to begin dropping aid into Gaza as fears of famine grow

It comes a day after Israeli soldiers reportedly opened fire on a crowd of civilians who were desperately trying to access food in Gaza.

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden has announced that the US will begin air-dropping humanitarian assistance into Gaza, a day after dozens of Palestinians were killed while desperately trying to access food

Israeli soldiers reportedly opened fire on the crowd of civilians who were trying to reach an aid convoy, though Israeli officials have denied this. Over 100 people were killed in what the region’s health ministry called a “massacre”. 

More than 750 people were also injured in the attack, the Gaza health ministry said.

Biden said the air drops will begin soon and that the United States was looking into additional ways to facilitate getting badly needed aid into the war-battered territory to ease the suffering of Palestinians.

“In the coming days, we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others who are providing airdrops of additional food and supplies” and will “seek to open up other avenues in, including possibly a marine corridor,” Biden said.

He also said the US would “insist” Israel let more trucks carrying aid into Gaza.

“No excuses, because the truth is aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough. It’s nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line,” he said.

“We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there. We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”

Biden added that “hopefully we’ll know shortly” on the progress of negotiations towards a six-week ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The United States has backed Israel since the 7 October attacks and supplied it with weapons, but it has also urged its ally to reduce Palestinian civilian deaths, saying they are much too high.

Washington has also been pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow more aid in, with the United Nations warning of imminent famine in northern Gaza.

The United Nations has said that a famine in the region is “almost inevitable”. 

“Once a famine is declared, it is too late for too many people”, said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.

“We don’t want to get to that situation and we need things to change before that,” he told a briefing in Geneva today.

Thousands have already died in the current conflict, triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground invasion of the Gaza strip has now killed more than 30,000 people, with humanitarian agencies saying conditions for the 2.2 million people in Gaza are now dire.

“We have to look at what more and more voices, more and more loudly, are saying about the food security situation across the Gaza Strip, in particular in the north,” said Laerke.

“If something doesn’t change, a famine is almost inevitable on the current trends.”

‘Tough military operation’

The White House said Biden had been planning air drops for some time but that the need for them was pressed home by the aid trucks horror in Gaza.

“What yesterday’s event underscores, and certainly underscored for the president, is the need to continue to find alternative routes” for aid, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

He said the US planned to carry out multiple air drops that would last weeks.

“This isn’t going to be one and done,” Kirby told reporters at a briefing.

But it was also a “tough military operation” that required careful planning by the Pentagon for the safety of both Gazan civilians and US military personnel.

“It is extremely difficult to do an airdrop in such a crowded environment as is Gaza,” said Kirby.

The United States also had to manage the risks to its own personnel, he said.

“This is a war zone. So there’s an added element of potential danger to the pilots in the aircraft.”

Kirby said Israel was meanwhile “seriously” investigating the aid convoy deaths, in which Hamas authorities in Gaza say 115 Palestinians were killed after Israeli troops opened fire during a delivery.

An Israeli source acknowledged the military opened fire on the crowd, adding that the soldiers believed the civilians “posed a threat.”

Washington would continue to support Israel militarily despite the growing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, Kirby said.

“We are still helping Israel with their needs to defend themselves,” he said.

Global condemnation

The deaths of Palestinians desperately trying to reach aid yesterday has been roundly condemned.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin today said he is “appalled by the horrible deaths of Palestinians queueing for aid in Gaza city”.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “deep indignation” at seeing images of Israeli soldiers firing on civilians in Gaza.

“I express my strongest condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice, and respect for international law,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

EU Council President Charles Michel said he was “shocked and repulsed by yesterday’s killing of innocent civilians in Gaza” while Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said she was “deeply disturbed by the images in Gaza”.

Both von der Leyen and Michel called for an investigation into yesterday’s events. 

With reporting from Press Association and AFP