‘He swam to get food for his children’: 12 drown as US drops aid off Gaza

Palestinian resistance group Hamas has demanded a halt to aid airdrops after 18 people drowned while attempting to reach the dropped supplies, saying Israel must lift its brutal siege and allow aid into Gaza via land crossings.

Six people were killed in stampedes and 12 others drowned off the territory’s Mediterranean coast trying to salvage aid packages, the Hamas government and the Swiss-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said on Tuesday.

Hamas in a statement called for “an immediate end to airdrop operations” and “the immediate and rapid opening of land crossings”.

The UN children’s fund, UNICEF, said vastly more aid must be rushed into Gaza by road rather than air or sea to avert an “imminent famine”.

UNICEF spokesman James Elder pointed out that the necessary help was “a matter of kilometres away” in aid-filled trucks waiting across Gaza’s southern border with Egypt.

Video of the airdrop obtained by Reuters showed crowds of people running towards the beach, in Beit Lahia in north Gaza, as crates with parachutes floated down, then people standing deep in water and bodies being pulled onto the sand.

In Washington, the Pentagon said three of the 18 bundles of airdropped aid into Gaza on Monday had parachute malfunctions and fell into the water, but could not confirm if anyone was killed trying to reach the aid.

The US said it would continue airdrops of aid to besieged Gaza, despite pleas from Hamas to stop the practice.

It was the latest in a string of incidents involving deaths during aid deliveries in Gaza where some people are foraging for weeds to eat and baking barely edible bread from animal feed.

A piece of paper retrieved from Monday’s airdrop said in Arabic written over an American flag that the aid was from the United States.

The video showed the apparently lifeless body of a bearded young man being hauled onto the beach, the eyes open but unmoving, and another man trying to revive him with chest compressions as somebody said, “It’s over.”

“He swam to get food for his children and he was martyred,” said a man standing on the beach who did not give his name.

“They should deliver aid through the (overland) crossings. Why are they doing this to us?”

“People are dying just to get a can of tuna,” Gaza resident Mohamad al Sabaawi told the AFP news agency, holding a can in his hand after a scramble over an aid package.

Aid agencies say only about a fifth of required supplies are entering Gaza as Israel persists with an air and ground assault that has shattered the enclave, pushing parts of it into starvation already.

They say deliveries by air or sea directly onto Gaza’s beaches are no substitute for increased supplies coming in by land via Israel or Egypt.

Aid delivery crisis

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has urged Israel to give an “ironclad commitment” for unfettered aid access into Gaza and described the number of trucks blocked at the border as “a moral outrage”.

Distribution of aid inside Gaza has been complicated, particularly in the north, and last month Israeli troops killed more than 100 people trying to take aid from a convoy.

UNRWA communications director Juliette Touma said the reported drownings showed the best way to deliver aid was by trucks run by aid agencies.

“These tragic reports coming from Gaza are yet another indication that the most efficient, fastest, safest way to reach people with much-needed humanitarian assistance is via road and via the humanitarian organisations including UNRWA who are working on the ground,” Touma said.

SOURCE: TRTWORLD AND AGENCIES