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US, Jordan drop second round of aid into Gaza

The Jordanian air force and U.S. military teamed up again on Tuesday to complete a second drop of thousands of meals to Palestinians in northern Gaza, part of new U.S. efforts to bypass issues with delivering aid via trucks on land.

The airdrop included 36,800 meals bundled by U.S. soldiers and flown via three C-130 Hercules planes, according to Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman.

The mission was “part of a sustained effort to get more aid into Gaza including by expanding the flow of aid through land corridors and routes,” he added.

The U.S. and Jordan made their first drop, of more than 38,000 meals, on Saturday, after President Joe Biden authorized the aid on Friday.

“In the coming days we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others who are providing airdrops of additional food and supplies” and will “seek to open up other avenues in, including possibly a marine corridor,” Biden said.

The U.S. is part of a larger regional effort looking into the possibility of maritime aid shipments, Ryder confirmed, including options for commercial or contracted vessels to deliver aid.

The move followed an incident Thursday in Gaza where Israeli troops fired on Palestinians rushing to an aid convoy, killing 115 and injuring more than 750, according to an estimate from Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

An early incident investigation by the Israel Defense Forces found that most of the casualties were trampled in the rush to the convoy, but the head of Gaza City hospital said most of the casualties treated there had gunshot wounds, the Associated Press reported.

The number of aid trucks entering Gaza has been throttled in recent days, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh confirmed Monday, down to 30 to 120 trucks a day from as many as 200.

“But again, that’s clearly not enough to get everyone — to feed the population there,” she said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged Israeli War Cabinet Member Benny Gantz during a meeting at the Pentagon on Tuesday to allow more aid into Gaza, according to a readout of the meeting. Ryder declined to say whether Gantz made any assurances that he would support that effort.

Lawmakers have urged the Navy to deploy the hospital ships Comfort or Mercy to help care for Gazans injured or otherwise needing medical care because of Israel’s military campaign, but the Pentagon has repeatedly said they have nothing to announce on that front.

“We’re going to work closely with the interagency to look at what the requirements are how best to meet those requirements,” Ryder said. “And as I mentioned, that include both commercial or contracted options, but recognizing that the [Defense Department] has unique capabilities, that’s what we will bring to the discussion. But again, I don’t want to get ahead of that planning process.”

Sending U.S. assets to the coast of Gaza comes with its own list of complications, including finding a port deep enough to accommodate ships, as well as a security plan to protect it from attacks.

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