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Biden says U.S. will airdrop humanitarian aid to Gaza

U.S. to begin airdropping aid into Gaza
U.S. to begin airdropping aid into Gaza 01:57

Washington — President Biden announced Friday that the U.S. will airdrop humanitarian aid to Gaza as the United Nations warns of imminent famine amid the Israel-Hamas war.

"In the coming days we're going to join with our friends in Jordan and others in providing airdrops of additional food and supplies," Mr. Biden said ahead of a meeting with the Italian prime minister in the Oval Office on Friday.

He said the U.S. would put pressure on Israel to facilitate more truck deliveries of humanitarian aid after dozens of desperate Palestinians were killed trying to get food from a convoy earlier this week. 

"No excuses, because the truth is, aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough," Mr. Biden said. "Innocent lives are on the line and children's lives are on the line."

President Biden meets Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Washington.
President Biden meets Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in the Oval Office of the White House on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Washington. Evan Vucci / AP

A number of countries have condemned Israeli forces for firing on Palestinians who were waiting for food and other desperately needed aid in Gaza City on Thursday. 

Gaza's Ministry of Health, which is run by Hamas, said more than 100 people were killed and more than 750 were wounded. Israel said many were fatally trampled in the chaos of the aid delivery, and that its troops fired when they felt endangered. 

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday that the U.S. did not have enough information to verify Israel's explanation, adding that it had asked Israel to investigate the tragedy. 

"It's our assessment that they're taking this seriously and they are looking into what occurred, so as to avoid tragedies like this from happening again," Kirby said during the White House press briefing. 

Mr. Biden called it a "tragic and alarming event." 

"The loss of life is heartbreaking," he said. "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, and we need to do more. The United States will do more." 

Kirby said the incident underscores the need for more humanitarian assistance in Gaza. The airdrop in the coming days would deliver food, he said, and be the first "of a sustained effort." 

The White House official also stressed the complexity and dangers of the airdrops, saying "it is extremely difficult to do an airdrop in such a crowded environment" as Gaza and in a war zone. 

"There's few military operations that are more complicated than humanitarian assistance airdrops. This is this is a tough military mission to do because so many parameters have to be exactly right," Kirby said. "The planning will be robust on this." 

Kirby added: "I do want to stress that we fully expect that the third and fourth and fifth one won't look like the first and second one. We'll learn and we'll try to improve."

Delivering aid via the sea is also under consideration, the president said, though Kirby noted that could be a ways off. 

"We're much further along in terms of being able to execute airdrops than we are a maritime corridor," Kirby said. 

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