British commander says air drops a lifesaver for Gazans facing starvation

By Thomson Reuters May 9, 2024 | 2:22 PM

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

KING ABDULLAH AIR BASE, Jordan (Reuters) – Air drops through Jordan by a coalition of Western and Arab states are a lifesaver for starving Palestinians in Gaza struggling to get aid due to closed crossings and insufficient access, the commander of British forces in Cyprus said on Thursday.

Air Vice-Marshal Peter Squires said the 11th airdrop by the Royal Air Force, which reached a cumulative total of 110 metric tons of aid on Thursday, remained an important part of the wider effort to deliver humanitarian and life-saving goods to the war-torn Gaza Strip.

“We just need to keep getting aid by land, sea and air and all methods, because every bit is precious to Palestinians,” Squires told Reuters before departing on a military flight over Gaza.

With land routes into Gaza hard to access and not fully operational, Jordan has led a coalition of Western and Arab air forces that has focused on air drops in northern Gaza where the needs are greater and the risk of famine is reaching catastrophic levels.

“It’s a great logistical effort,” Squires said. “There are a number of locations we use to spread out to make certain the aid gets to the population who need it the most.”

The air drops were mostly conducted close to Gaza’s seashore because that’s the safest place to drop the aid, he added.

Squires dismissed aid agency criticism that over 240 air drops carried out by a 12-country coalition led by Jordan and including German, U.S., UAE and Egyptian forces had a negligible impact and do not provide relief for those hardest hit.

“…Every bag of flour every bit of water matters and could be life-saving… To a starving Palestinian on the ground, every drop of aid is precious, everything we do matters,” he added.

Israel has launched a massive assault on Gaza, killing nearly 35,000 Palestinians, local health authorities say, in a bombardment that has reduced the enclave to a wasteland. The offensive followed an attack on Israel in October that killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli figures.

Squires said surveillance from cockpits and detailed planning ensured that the aid packages landed in the safest places for Palestinians to reach them. There have been several deaths from parachute failure when air-dropped aid fell on Gazans waiting for them.

Britain was also helping efforts to speed up the operation of a Cyprus-inspired maritime corridor where a pier that will be placed off the Gaza coast could be operational very soon, the vice-marshal said.

“There is a huge effort to make it happen… British bases are doing all they can… We hope it will happen in a matter of days or weeks,” Squires added.

“In terms of volume you can get a lot more on a ship and the more aid you can get and bring in multiple routes, all of it matters and all of it adds up,” he said.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Jonathan Oatis)