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US military air drops more aid to Gaza, will not deploy troops

US military air drops more aid to Gaza, will not deploy troops
epa11191997 Humanitarian aid is air-dropped by a Jordanian aircraft into the northern Gaza Strip, 01 March 2024. The Jordanian Armed Forces announced on 01 March that three of its aircraft successfully conducted three airdrops of food supplies on the northern Gaza Strip. More than 30,200 Palestinians and over 1,300 Israelis have been killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), since Hamas militants launched an attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip on 07 October 2023, and the Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank which followed it. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER

WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. military carried out a new air drop of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza on Tuesday, parachuting in more than 36,800 meals, as the Biden administration pressed a top Israeli official for greater aid access during talks in Washington.

By Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali

The Israeli offensive in Gaza, which is supported by the United States, has displaced most of the enclave’s 2.3 million people and led to critical shortages of food, water and medicine.

The situation is worst in the north of Gaza, which is beyond the reach of aid agencies or news cameras, and was the target of Tuesday’s drop. Gaza health authorities say 15 children have died of malnutrition or dehydration at one hospital alone.

Aid dropped by air is an expensive and insufficient alternative to aid that is trucked in, given the scale of the humanitarian crisis, U.S. officials say. President Joe Biden’s administration is pressing for greater access by land.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met at the Pentagon on Tuesday with Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, and urged his support for Israel to do more to help civilians.

“Secretary (Austin) expressed strong concerns over the humanitarian situation in Gaza and requested Minister Gantz’s support in enabling more humanitarian assistance and distribution into Gaza,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder said.

Gantz made no comments at the Pentagon but told reporters outside the State Department that his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was “very good.”

The State Department’s spokesperson, Matt Miller, called the humanitarian situation in Gaza “horrific.”

Aid supplies to the rest of Gaza, already sharply curtailed since the start of the war, have dwindled to barely a trickle over the past month. Whole swathes of the territory are completely cut off from food.

The U.S. made its first air drop on Saturday, over the coast of southwestern Gaza.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, U.S. President Joe Biden said: “The United States is committed to pulling out every stop to get more aid to those in Gaza who desperately need it. We won’t stand by. We won’t let up.”

The United States has already urged Israel numerous times to do more to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli assault launched in response to Hamas attacks that killed 1,200 people in October.

U.S. officials have voiced interest in a possible maritime corridor to get aid into Gaza, but it is unclear how aid would enterwithout U.S. military presence to facilitate that, including setting up a temporary port.

Ryder, the Pentagon’s spokesperson, appeared to play down such a possibility when asked if U.S. troops might be needed to secure a port or other on-land aid distribution site.

“At this time there are no plans to put U.S. forces on the ground in Gaza,” Ryder said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Kevin Liffey and Deepa Babington)

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