Published On: Wed, Mar 27th, 2024
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Hamas call for end of airdrops after Palestinians drown in pursuit of aid | World | News

Hamas has asked for aid airdrops to stop after at least 12 Palestinians drowned trying to retrieve supplies off a Gaza beach.

Amid growing fears of famine nearly six months into Israel‘s military campaign, video footage of the airdrop showed crowds of people running towards the beach, in Beit Lahia in north Gaza.

As crates with parachutes floated down, people were seen standing deep in the water. As some fought in vain against the tide, a number of bodies were later pulled onto the sand.

In a statement, Hamas called for “an immediate end to airdrop operations” and “the immediate and rapid opening of land crossings”.

Hamas and the Swiss-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor also said separately another six people had been killed in stampedes trying to get aid.

“People are dying just to get a can of tuna,” Gaza resident Mohamad al-Sabaawi said, holding a can in his hand after a scramble over an aid package.

Hamas also demanded that Israel allow more aid trucks to enter the territory, which the UN has warned is on the brink of a “manmade famine” after nearly six months of fighting.

The UN children’s fund, Unicef, said vastly more aid must be rushed into Gaza by road rather than by air or sea to avert an “imminent famine”.

Unicef spokesperson James Elder said the necessary help was “a matter of kilometres away” in aid-filled trucks waiting across Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.

The US national security council said in a statement it would continue trying to get aid in by road, but also said it would continue airdrops.

The tragedy on the beach was just the latest in a string of incidents involving deaths during aid deliveries in the tiny, crowded Palestinian enclave where some people are foraging for weeds to eat and baking barely edible bread from animal feed.

The video showed the apparently lifeless body of a bearded young man being hauled onto the beach, the eyes open but unmoving, and another man trying to revive him with chest compressions as somebody said, “It’s over.”

“He swam to get food for his children and he was martyred,” said a man standing on the beach who did not give his name.
“They should deliver aid through the (overland) crossings. Why are they doing this to us?”

Aid agencies say only about a fifth of required supplies are entering Gaza as Israel ploughs on with an air and ground offensive, triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, that has shattered the enclave, pushing parts of it into famine already.

They say deliveries by air or sea directly onto Hamas-run Gaza’s beaches are no substitute for increased supplies coming in by land via Israel or Egypt.

A piece of paper retrieved from the airdrop said in Arabic written over an American flag that the aid was from the United States.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Israel to give an “ironclad commitment” for unfettered aid access into the Gaza Strip and described the number of trucks blocked at the border as “a moral outrage”.

Israel says it puts no limit on the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza and blames problems in it reaching civilians within the enclave on U.N. agencies, which it says are inefficient.

Distribution of aid inside Gaza has been complicated, particularly in the north, and last month health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza said Israeli troops killed more than 100 people trying to take aid from a convoy.

Israel‘s military disputed that account, saying people who had rushed the convoy had died during a stampede or by being crushed by aid trucks.

It has banned UNRWA, the main U.N. agency working in Gaza which it accuses of complicity with Hamas, from carrying out aid deliveries to the north, UNRWA’s head said on Sunday.

UNRWA denies it is complicit with Hamas and is awaiting the results of investigations into its handling of the accusations, which have led some donors to pause funding.

The U.N. humanitarian office urged Israel on Tuesday to revoke an apparent ban on food aid to north Gaza by UNRWA, saying people there were facing a “cruel death by famine”.

UNRWA communications director Juliette Touma said the reported drownings showed the best way to deliver aid was by trucks run by aid agencies.

“These tragic reports coming from Gaza are yet another indication that the most efficient, fastest, safest way to reach people with much-needed humanitarian assistance is via road and via the humanitarian organisations including UNRWA who are working on the ground,” Touma said.

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