Twelve drown trying to reach aid dropped by plane off Gaza beach - Palestinian authorities

Twelve people drowned trying to reach aid dropped by plane off a Gaza beach, Palestinian health authorities said on Tuesday (local time), amid growing fears of famine nearly six months into Israel's military campaign.

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.

It was the latest in a string of incidents involving deaths during aid deliveries in the crowded Palestinian enclave 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?"

Aid agencies say only about a fifth of required supplies are entering Gaza as Israel persists with an air and ground offensive, triggered by Hamas' October 7 attack, that has shattered the enclave, pushing parts of it into famine already.

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

Palestinians gather on a beach as they collect aid airdropped by an airplane, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the northern Gaza Strip.
Palestinians gather on a beach as they collect aid airdropped by an airplane, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo credit: Reuters

Aid delivery crisis

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

Israel says it puts no limit on the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza and blames problems in it reaching civilians within the enclave on UN agencies, which it says are inefficient.

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

Israel's military disputed that account, saying people who had rushed the convoy had been crushed to death by the crowd or aid trucks.

It has banned UNRWA, the main UN agency working in Gaza which it accuses of complicity with Hamas, from carrying out aid deliveries to the north, UNRWA's head said on Sunday.

UNRWA denies it is complicit with Hamas and is awaiting the results of investigations into its handling of the accusations, which have led some donors to pause funding.

The UN humanitarian office urged Israel on Tuesday to revoke an apparent ban on food aid to north Gaza by UNRWA, saying people there were facing a "cruel death by famine".

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.