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U.S. military aircraft airdrop thousands of meals into Gaza in emergency humanitarian aid operation

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U.S. military C-130 cargo planes on Saturday dropped food in pallets over Gaza, three U.S. officials said, two days after more than 100 Palestinians who had surged to pull goods off an aid convoy were killed during a chaotic encounter with Israeli troops.

U.S. Central Command and the Royal Jordanian Air Force conducted a combined humanitarian assistance airdrop into Gaza, CENTCOM said in a statement. A defense official told CBS News three U.S. C-130 cargo planes dropped 66 total bundles, equating to about 38,000 pork-free meals, into the territory on Saturday morning. The bundles were split between three planes, the official said. 

“These airdrops are part of a sustained effort to get more aid into Gaza, including by expanding the flow of aid through land corridors and routes,” the statement said, adding that the military is “conducting planning for potential follow-on airborne aid delivery missions.” A U.S. official told CBS News the next U.S. drop is planned for Wednesday.

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Emergency supplies are being loaded onto a U.S. military aircraft to conduct the first humanitarian food drop into the Gaza Strip.

CENTCOM

The airdrop is expected to be the first of many announced by President Joe Biden on Friday. The aid will be coordinated with Jordan, which has also conducted airdrops to deliver food to Gaza.

At least 115 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more wounded in the Thursday attack as they scrambled for aid, the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said. Israel says many of the dead were trampled in a chaotic crush for food aid, and its troops fired warning shots after the crowd moved toward them in a threatening way.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Friday that the airdrops were being planned to deliver emergency humanitarian assistance in a safe way to people on the ground.

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An image taken from drone video released by the Israel Defense Forces shows what the IDF said was a huge crowd of Palestinians rushing a convoy of aid trucks as it arrived at a distribution point near Gaza City, Feb. 29, 2024, which the military said resulted in dozens of people being killed by trampling.

IDF handout

The C-130 cargo plane is a widely used military jet to deliver aid to remote places due to its ability to land in austere environments and cargo capacity. It airlift as much as 42,000 pounds of cargo and its crews know how to rig the cargo, which sometimes can include even vehicles, onto massive pallets can be safely dropped out of the back of the aircraft.

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Some of the 66 bundles, which equate to 38,000 overall meals, before being dropped into Gaza.

CENTCOM

Air Force loadmasters secure the bundles onto pallets with netting that is rigged for release in the back of a C-130, and then crews release it with a parachute when the aircraft reaches the intended delivery zone.

The Air Force’s C-130 has been used in years past to air drop humanitarian into Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti and other locations and the airframe is used in an annual multi-national “Operation Christmas Drop” that air drops pallets of toys, supplies, nonperishable food and fishing supplies to remote locations in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.

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A U.S. military C-130 cargo plane involved in airdropping meals into Gaza.

CENTCOM

Since the war began on Oct. 7, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies, except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.

The United Nations says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people face starvation. Aid officials have said that airdrops are not an efficient means of distributing aid and are a measure of last resort.

Eleanor Watson contributed to this report. 





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