UNSC calls for safe food delivery to Gaza; experts say ‘airdrops worst way to deliver aid’

UNSC calls for safe food delivery to Gaza; experts say ‘airdrops worst way to deliver aid'

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 03 (APP): The UN Security Council has underscored the need to protect civilians in Gaza where more than 100 desperate Palestinians waiting for at a food convoy were killed on Thursday after Israeli forces opened fire. Several hundred others were injured.

The 15 Council members issued a statement late Saturday expressing their deep concern, noting that an Israeli investigation was underway.

They extended their sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wished a swift and complete recovery to the wounded.

Meanwhile, according to media reports, United States military cargo planes Sunday air-dropped food into Gaza, in the first of series of aid drops as humanitarian groups criticize Israel for blocking access to the besieged and bombarded strip.

However, experts called airdrops the worst way to deliver aid.

Since Israel’s war began on October 7 following Hamas’s attack, Israel has barred the entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies, except for a tiny trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing.

In its statement, the Council stressed the need to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, adding that all parties to conflicts must comply with their obligations under international law.

Parties were urged to refrain from depriving civilians in Gaza of basic services and humanitarian assistance.

The Council expressed grave concern that the entire population, more than two million people, could face alarming levels of acute food insecurity.

Members reiterated their demand for parties “to allow, facilitate, and enable the immediate, rapid, safe, sustained and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip”.

They urged Israel to keep border crossings open for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, to facilitate the opening of additional crossings to meet humanitarian needs at scale, and to support the rapid and safe delivery of relief items to people across the enclave.

On its airdrop missions, the US used C-130 transport aircraft which sent down more than 38,000 meals along Gaza’s Mediterranean coastline, a move which elicited strong criticism.

“You only resort to [airdrops] when there is something on the ground blocking you from using better forms of transportation,” Jeremy Konyndyk, the president of Refugees International and a former disaster relief official in the [former US President Barack] Obama and [US President Joe] Biden administrations, told Al Jazeera.

“They’re very expensive, they’re dangerous because there’s a lot that can go wrong when things drop and they deliver a very small volume of aid. Relative to the level of need that exists in Gaza today, this is not enough to make a meaningful dent in the humanitarian crisis.”

“You have to ask, why is this necessary? Well, it’s necessary because over the last nearly five months, the Israeli military offensive has made it virtually impossible for normal humanitarian operations to exist in Gaza,” Konyndyk added.

“They could be opening more border crossings – they have refused to do that. Even the two crossings in the south that are open have seen their volumes decline in the last few weeks. And they’ve made it very difficult for humanitarian groups to operate within Gaza – there have been air strikes on humanitarian facilities, there was a naval strike on a UN food convoy heading to the north that was actually [previously] stopped at an Israeli checkpoint at the time.”

“So this resort to air strikes is a reflection of how impossible the Israeli government has made it to conduct normal and frankly more effective humanitarian operations inside Gaza.”

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the US will carry out multiple airdrops in the next few weeks, which will be coordinated with Jordan.

Kirby said the airdrops have an advantage over trucks because planes can move aid to a particular area quickly. However, in terms of volume, the airdrops will be “a supplement to, not a replacement for moving things in by ground”, he added.

The Biden administration is also considering shipping aid by sea from Cyprus, according to a US official.

But US’s move has ben called “inefficient and simply a public relations move by members of international aid organizations.”

“The airdrops are symbolic and designed in ways to appease the domestic base,” Dave Harden, former USAID director to the West Bank, said. “Really what needs to happen is more crossings [opening] and more trucks going in every day.”

“I think the United States is weak and that’s really disappointing to me,” Harden added. “The US has the ability to compel Israel to open up more aid and by not doing that we’re putting our assets and our people at risks and potentially creating more chaos in Gaza.”

UK-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) echoed Harden’s statement, saying that the US, the UK and others should instead work to “ensure that Israel immediately opens all crossings into Gaza for aid.”

Oxfam also blasted the Biden administration’s plans, labelling the effort an attempt to assuage the guilty consciences of US officials.

“While Palestinians in Gaza have been pushed to the absolute brink, dropping a paltry, symbolic amount of aid into Gaza with no plan for its safe distribution would not help and be deeply degrading to Palestinians,” Scott Paul, who leads Oxfam’s US government advocacy work, said in a statement on X.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry also criticized the US for acting as a “weak, marginal state” unable to secure aid to Palestinians.

US Senator Bernie Sanders, however, welcomed the US’s move.

“I applaud President Biden for understanding that there is a dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Sanders said on X.

Mahjoob Zweiri, the director of the Gulf Study Centre in Doha, said the international community is not putting enough pressure on Israel to allow the waiting aid trucks to enter Gaza by land.

“Why not send food in through Karem Abu Salem?” Zweiri said. “There are 2,000 trucks waiting to get into Gaza” at border crossings, he said, while food and medicines pile up for months past their expiry dates.

“Why is the international community not putting enough effort into delivering aid in an organized manner?” he asked.

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