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US to airdrop humanitarian aid into Gaza, Biden says

President Biden said Friday that the United States will begin airdrops of humanitarian aid into Gaza amid negotiations for a temporary cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Biden confirmed the planned airdrops during an Oval Office meeting with the prime minister of Italy. The effort will provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza as watchdogs and aid agencies have warned of increasingly dire circumstances there as Israel carries out military operations throughout the enclave.

“Innocent people got caught in a terrible war, unable to feed their families, and you saw the response when they tried to get aid. And we need to do more, and the United States will do more,” Biden said.

“In the coming days, we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others in providing airdrops of additional food and supplies into [Gaza],” he added.

“The truth is, aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough now. It’s nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line,” he added.

The airdrops are seen as a way for the U.S. to get aid into the area while officials continue efforts to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas to allow for food, medicine, water and other supplies to get into Gaza, and for hostages to be released.

White House spokesperson John Kirby called it “extremely difficult” to effectively conduct airdrops in such a crowded area. The materials need to land somewhere accessible to aid organizations while also arriving in an area with high concentrations of people in need, he said.

The Pentagon will develop a plan for the airdrops, which are set to begin in the coming days, though Kirby did not know of a specific schedule.

“We fully expect the third and fourth and fifth one won’t look like the first and second one,” he said. “We’ll learn and we’ll try to improve.”

The Biden administration has been involved in months of negotiations for a temporary pause in fighting of about six weeks to release the remaining hostages taken during Hamas’s deadly attacks Oct. 7.

The president had initially suggested a cease-fire could take hold as early as next Monday, but more recently indicated that timeline was unlikely. He acknowledged talks would be complicated after more than 100 Palestinians were killed at a food distribution site in Gaza when Israeli troops opened fire.

Asked if he was worried that the deaths would complicate talks, he said, “Oh, I know it will.”

Kirby said the U.S. has asked Israel to look into the incident and take it seriously so similar violence can be avoided in the future.

“This event underscores the importance, we believe, of expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza since so much of it is in need,” Kirby said. “And by no means should what happened yesterday preclude or prevent additional humanitarian assistance from getting in.”

Biden has faced growing pressure from Democrats to call for a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas as the situation in Gaza worsens, and the Palestinian death toll from Israel’s attacks climbs above 30,000.

The president has publicly supported Israel’s right to respond to the Hamas terrorist attacks that left more than 1,000 Israelis dead, but his administration has tried to balance that with private warnings to Israel’s leaders about protecting civilians.

“While an airdrop will buy time and save lives, there is no substitute for sustained ground deliveries of what is needed to sustain life in Gaza,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement.

“Israel MUST open the borders and allow the United Nations to deliver supplies in sufficient quantities. The United States should make clear that failure to do so immediately will lead to a fundamental break in the U.S.-Israel relationship and the immediate halt of military aid.”

Updated: 3:08 p.m.

Source: The Hill

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