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‘These airdrops claim our lives’: Aid airdrops reveal international failure and complicity in dehumanising Palestinians

March 30, 2024 at 10:42 am

Planes drop humanitarian aid over northern Gaza as the Israeli attacks and blockades continue in Gaza City, Gaza on March 15, 2024. [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency]

International aerial drops of aid in the Gaza Strip are the result of further policies of collective humiliation and dehumanisation of the besieged population in Gaza. While Israel’s friendly countries race to demonstrate their aerial military capabilities over the Gaza sky to drop humanitarian aid into Gaza, what they are providing is only a very small fraction of what is required to meet the enormous needs of the exhausted and starving people.

A hideous contradiction is playing out in the Israeli offensive-torn Gaza Strip. The US administration has repeatedly managed to veto a ceasefire in the tiny enclave while issuing condemnations of Israeli massacres and Israel halting humanitarian aid trucks from entering Gaza. US President Joe Biden continues to arm Israel with advanced weapons to commit more genocidal acts, while international planes from countries such as Jordan, Egypt and the US release food assistance by parachute over the Palestinians, dropping supplies into the ocean, on top of homes, in Israeli-controlled “buffer-zones”, inaccessible by Gazans, or even right on top of people’s heads, often sending food that is expired or otherwise inappropriate for consumption. The airdrops are the result of coordination and collaboration with the Israeli authorities, who maintain aerial dominance in the skies above Gaza. Yet, no country is working to coordinate with the Israelis to allow the movement of the thousands of trucks queued at the crossings waiting for Israeli permission to enter Gaza. The Egyptian-controlled Rafah Crossing would have had access to thousands of tonnes of aid if the US had worked to pressure Israel to open border crossings into the besieged territory.

Civil Defence spokesperson Mahmoud Basal told MEMO that the civil defence capabilities are severely debilitated as they can’t manage to answer the appeals of the injured, whether from the airdrops or the Israeli atrocities. Eighteen Palestinian citizens were killed by airdrops over the tiny and crowded Gaza Strip. Twelve people drowned after aid packages were released into the sea and six were killed as people ran towards the packages being parachuted. “This method is inefficient and even hazardous to people’s lives,” the spokesperson told us, adding that some food packages have landed on homes and buildings, causing destruction to property and power sources. The solar panels of Al-Ahli Hospital were damaged by aerial-dropped aid.

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The afflicted Gaza Strip is currently gripped by an intentional starvation crisis caused by the Israeli occupation since the first day of its carnage against the besieged coastal enclave. At least 27 Palestinian children and one woman have died from malnutrition and dehydration in North Gaza hospitals. The Israeli occupation has waged multiple violent air-based campaigns of aggression since the 2006 imposition of the Israeli-led, ground-air-sea siege against the Gaza Strip, targeting and destroying critical civilian infrastructure in repeated attempts to reduce Palestinians in Gaza to abject dependency with no recourse to rebuild their lives unless they submit entirely to Israeli diktat.

As a result of these recurrent attacks, more than 90 per cent of Gazan households lack access to clean water, while 68 per cent of households lack food security and depend on the aid of international donors, according to United Nations reports issued in recent years. This is often referred to as the “starvation plus” model, attempting to evade accusations of violations of international humanitarian law. Now, during the ongoing atrocity, the Israelis have turned to the intentional use of starvation as a weapon of war. Elected Israeli officials brazenly declare that they are “dealing with human animals,” imposing a total siege preventing food, water and fuel from entering Gaza.

Jalal Moqayyed, a maths teacher from Jabalia and a father of three, said: “For nearly five months now, my family and I haven’t eaten any bread, fruits or vegetables, except some canned food, grass and animal feed.”

He added: “When I saw the food parachuted from military planes, I thought it would be the solution to curb the famine in the north of Gaza, but these airdrops claim our lives and even demean and dehumanise us while we are dignified people. I saw people killed and injured trying to get the food aid.”

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Twenty-five leading human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Action Aid International, Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières France and others, stated in a joint press release: “States cannot hide behind airdrops and efforts to open a maritime corridor to create the illusion that they are doing enough to support the needs in Gaza.” The non-governmental organisations have slammed the aerial and sea deliveries of aid into Gaza, calling for safe and unhindered humanitarian access through all land crossings. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has also issued a call for providing safe access to food assistance via appropriate mechanisms to the starving people of Gaza.

Gaza has six crossings; five are controlled by Israel and now all are closed. Prior to this ongoing aggression, they were used as leverage and bargaining chips during times of political and security crises. The sixth crossing, the Rafah Crossing, is controlled by Egypt. Thousands of humanitarian trucks are stuck on the Egyptian side, waiting for Israeli permission to enter Gaza. All trucks are subject to inspection by the Israeli occupation forces, which further delays the entry of aid, slowing the movement of trucks. Many trucks are often stopped and refused entry altogether, and the trucks that are allowed in have become tools of further humiliation and violence used by the Israelis. Multiple humanitarian convoys have come under attack by Israeli forces, and even people seeking aid have been targeted by Israeli violence.

In one incident, now infamously regarded as the “Flour Massacre”, Israeli forces opened fire on a starving crowd desperately trying to access food from a convoy of aid trucks in Gaza City, killing 118 Palestinians and injuring hundreds more. In numerous other incidences, the Gaza government media office and other human rights groups have documented the murders of at least 560 Palestinians who have been directly targeted and killed by Israeli forces while acquiring aid from those who help in the facilitation, including local police officers and the popular committee volunteers, to civilians shot dead while trying to bring a stack of flour to their starving children and families.

Analysts say that if the US administration and other states are serious about stopping the imminent famine in Gaza, their efforts should be leveraged to pressure Israel to allow access to the humanitarian convoys by land and by halting weapon shipments to Israel.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.