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The United States joined five other countries in airdropping aid packages onto Gaza this weekend, a move described as “inefficient”, that came after more than 100 Palestinians died while trying to receive humanitarian aid in the enclave’s capital, the New York Times reported.

In a joint operation with Jordan, the US Army airdropped 38,000 halal meals on Saturday onto the besieged territory. Similar campaigns carried out by Egypt, France, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar over the past week saw other supplies airdropped, including diapers, medicine, and menstrual hygiene products.

US President Joe Biden announced the move on Friday, one day after an aid delivery in Gaza City turned deadly. Hundreds of Palestinians converged around the humanitarian convoy, one of the rare ones let into the enclave, leading to a chaotic scene. At least 115 people were killed, and 750 were wounded in the incident. Gazan authorities and eyewitnesses blamed it on Israeli gunfire.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris later said people in Gaza were “starving” and urged Israel to “significantly increase the flow of aid” there, the BBC reported. She said “there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks”, which would “get the (Israeli) hostages out” .

Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) argued the death toll was due to a stampede. They released drone footage of the scene, showing hundreds of people rushing toward the convoy. Spokesperson Nir Dinar acknowledged an IDF troop had shot people approaching them in a threatening manner while denying involvement in the “mass casualty,” the Washington Post reported. Nonetheless, the head of a Gaza City hospital said 80 percent of the wounded had been struck by gunfire.

Thursday’s tragedy has highlighted the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where 30,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the war in October, according to the Gazan Health Ministry, a great majority being women and children. More than half a million Gazans are now facing “famine conditions,” the International Rescue Committee said.

Experts have criticized the airdropping campaigns, saying they were too expensive yet too inefficient, as they alone cannot meet the needs of the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped inside the Gaza Strip. One called them “theater” and said they could further fuel chaos.

UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian affairs – which is set to receive funding again from the European Union after a month-long blockade from Western powers – said airdropping should only be a “last-resort” solution.

Humanitarian organizations, by and large, have demanded that Israel reopen border crossings, especially in the north of Gaza, and allow aid to enter the enclave.

At the same time, a US source told the Associated Press that Israel endorsed a proposed ceasefire and hostage release deal, with Hamas having yet to join the agreement. Talks resumed in Egypt on Sunday with the hope of pausing the fighting before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts in mid-March.

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