News Spain air drops 26 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Gaza

MADRID, JERUSALEM: Spanish military planes air dropped 26 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday and Madrid called on Israel to open land border crossings to prevent a famine, the Foreign Ministry said.

The operation, carried out in coordination with Jordan and co-financed by the EU, dropped more than 11,000 food rations to alleviate the “catastrophic levels of food insecurity” faced by up to 1.1 million people in Gaza, the ministry said in a statement.

“Spain insists on the opening of the land crossings as an indispensable measure to avoid a famine situation,” it added.

Even before 18 people were killed when airdrops of aid into Gaza went disastrously wrong on Monday, many had questioned the sense in using planes when food can be delivered far more rapidly by road.

With only a trickle of aid getting into the starving north and the UN warning of “imminent famine” as it accuses Israel of blocking deliveries, foreign governments have turned to airdrops as “a way to show that they’re doing something,” said Shira Efron of the Israel Policy Forum.

The problem is that “airdrops are as inefficient as they are dangerous,” according to a source from an international NGO working in Gaza who asked to remain anonymous.

And they can be deadly to the desperate people waiting on the ground.

Twelve hungry Gazans drowned trying to fish food packages from the sea on Monday and six more were killed in stampedes.

Others have been crushed by the crates after parachutes malfunctioned, with five killed and 10 injured earlier this month when crates fell “like rockets” on the Al-Shati refugee camp.

Despite the deaths and the risks, Palestinians like mechanic Ahmed Al-Rifi were back the day after the latest tragedy waiting for the next drop, on the same beaches where the 18 were killed.

“Every day people get hurt or even killed fighting to get flour, water, lentils and beans,” he said.

Taxi driver Uday Nasser said it was “deeply humiliating.”

“The strong take from the weaker ones. Sometimes they use knives or even shoot,” he said.

UNICEF’s James Elder, who is in Gaza, said “typically food aid is delivered from the air because people are cut off and it’s the only way to reach them.”

“Here the lifesaving aid they need is a matter of kilometers away. We need to use the roads,” he said.

After the latest tragedy, Hamas pleaded for foreign powers to stop the drops saying they were a “real danger to the lives of hungry citizens.”

But the plea fell on deaf ears — Jordan’s Army said five more drops were carried out on Wednesday with help from Egypt, the UAE, Germany and Spain.

The US also pledged to continue airdrops with US Central Command confirming it had dropped 46,000 powdered meals over northern Gaza on Monday.

Some of those dropping the aid admit it is little more than a gesture with so many of Gaza’s 2.4 million people starving.

US Air Force Lt. Col. Jeremy Anderson said during a drop earlier this month that the aid delivered by air was only a “drop in the bucket” of what was needed.

He said that if a parachute failed to open they try to make sure it ends up in the water where “nobody is going to get hurt.”

Tragically on Monday, people drowned as they tried to get the crates landing in the water, witnesses saying some of the dead were children.

Washington insisted on Tuesday it was working “around the clock” to increase the flow of aid into Gaza by land as well as setting up a sea corridor.

Last week, a UN-backed report said a famine was imminent and likely to occur by May in northern Gaza and could spread across the enclave by July.

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