Countries resort to Gaza aid drops as hunger levels and political pressure intensify

Even Israel, condemned for restricting aid, appears to be benefitting politically

Jordan's King Abdullah joins air force crews dropping aid over Gaza

Jordan's King Abdullah joins air force crews dropping aid over Gaza
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King Abdullah of Jordan inspected cargo on Arab and French planes before they flew aid into Gaza this week from a base near Amman. In social media videos, he appeared on board one of the aircraft as parcels are dropped into the enclave.

Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron’s X account showed a photo of French airmen preparing one of the crates during the air delivery.

Almost five months into the war between Israel and the Iran-backed militant group Hamas, the flow of aerial aid from Jordan – few in number at first – has increased, although it still provides only a fraction of the humanitarian needs.

The drops do help governments in Paris and the Middle East to respond to growing public anger over humanitarian conditions in the enclave, observers said.

Countries, with support from Washington, are also sending a united message to Israel against continuing restrictions on the flow of aid, they said.

Veteran Jordanian political analyst Hazem Ayyad said the aid drops have the “green light” from Washington, and that they could rob Israel of its "starvation card" if more countries become involved.

“The rejection of Israel’s starvation policies is widespread,” Mr Ayyad said, describing the almost total blockade of the strip, which has only a fraction of the food and and medical supplies it needs.

Israel is also benefitting by allowing the planes to deliver the aid, partly to undermine allegations that it is pursuing genocide in Gaza, he said. Aid aircraft have to co-ordinate with the Israeli military, which controls the airspace over Gaza and conducts non-stop bombing missions.

“The air drops show how complex this war is," Mr Ayyad said.

A report from Amnesty International this week said Israeli authorities "have failed to ensure sufficient life-saving goods and services are reaching a population at risk of genocide and on the brink of famine".

Israel has also "failed to lift restrictions on the entry of life-saving goods, open additional aid access points and crossings or put in place an effective system to protect humanitarians from attack", the organisation said.

According to the Israeli military, several of its departments were involved in the drops, which reached 17 sites in southern Gaza in the past two days.

Jordan began very limited drops to two hospitals in Gaza in November. Over the past several weeks, its air force was jointed by other US allies to drop dozens of tonnes of food, medicine and fuel at unspecified sites on the Gaza shoreline.

About 1,000 tonnes of aid a week is needed to feed 500,000 people in Gaza, or one fifth of its population, according to the UN World Food Programme.

The acceleration of aid from Jordan this week occurred as Samantha Power, head of the UN Agency for International Development, announced additional US aid to Gaza.

Without referring to Israel, she said in a social media video that "bureaucratic bottle necks and inspection delays have to get resolved".

Aid workers in Gaza, “have to be protected" to do their jobs "without being shot at and killed", she said. Israel has been accused of a cumbersome, exhaustive inspection process to examine the contents of every lorry of aid queuing to cross into Gaza from Rafah on the Egyptian border, which has slowed aid flows to a trickle.

In Paris, popular anger at Mr Macron's perceived pro-Israeli bias has been growing, particularly among French Muslims, while in many countries a boycott of French goods, linked to the Gaza war, persists.

“The people of Gaza need massive humanitarian aid. All the crossing points must be opened without delay,” Mr Macron said this week.

Mr Macron's ties with the French Muslim minority are already strained over cultural and other issues.

A European diplomat said that the popular backlash in France and abroad has prompted Mr Macron to order more French involvement in the operations from Jordan.

The President had received “a twist in his ear” to change course from political figures in France and from French executives seeing decreased Middle East business, the diplomat said.

Updated: February 29, 2024, 5:48 AM