November 30, 2023 08:06
The United States on Tuesday sent the first of three military planes to Egypt with humanitarian aid for Gaza, promising to assist Palestinians during a truce between Hamas and U.S. ally Israel.
The relief flights carrying food, medical supplies and winter gear are the first by the U.S. military since the conflict began with the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel.
The flights started a day after President Joe Biden said he would use an extension of the truce to get more aid into Gaza, and as international efforts continue to further prolong the pause.
"The humanitarian needs in Gaza demand that the international community do much more. The United States is committed to this effort," Jake Sullivan, U.S. national security adviser, said in a statement.
Sullivan said Biden would work to "rally the international community to urgently increase support" in a UN appeal for Gaza.
◆ 'Supplies Will Save Lives'
The first Air Force C-17 aircraft landed Tuesday in Egypt with 24.5 metric tons (54,000 pounds) of medical supplies and ready-to-eat food, the U.S. Agency for International Development said.
The United Nations will take the aid from Egypt's North Sinai region, which borders the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, into the stricken Palestinian territory itself, U.S. officials said.
"These UN supplies will save lives and alleviate the suffering of thousands in Gaza," Sullivan said. Two further planeloads will arrive in the coming days, officials said.
Mediator Qatar on Monday announced a 48-hour extension of an initial four-day truce, opening the way for further releases of hostages seized by Hamas during its attack on Israel.
◆ 'Significant Surge'
Eight hundred aid trucks reached southern Gaza from Egypt in the first four days of the truce, with some aid also reaching badly hit northern Gaza, the U.S. officials said. "The movement over the last four or five days of assistance has been so significant in volume that a backfill... is now needed and these planes are part of that backfill," a senior U.S. official told reporters on Monday.
While Washington has deployed two aircraft carriers in the region to deter Iran and its allies, and ferried military assistance to key ally Israel, it has not previously used military assets during this conflict to deliver humanitarian aid.
Biden, who has firmly backed Israel while calling on it to reduce civilian casualties, said on Monday that the truce had allowed a "significant surge" in aid. The White House said on Monday, however, that Israel had made it clear it would continue its war on Hamas whenever the truce ended.
U.S. officials said Biden had warned Israel that it must not cause the same kind of mass displacements in southern Gaza that its offensive in the north triggered earlier this month. "From the president down we have reinforced this in a very clear way for the government of Israel," another U.S. official said.
Hamas staged the deadliest attack in Israel's history when it broke through Gaza's militarized border on Oct. 7. Israel says the attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and that around 240 others were taken hostage.
In response, Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, which the Hamas government says has killed 15,000 people, thousands of them children.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com