Washington — A U.S. military plane carrying 54,000 pounds of food and medical supplies bound for civilians in Gaza landed in Egypt on Tuesday, the first of three such flights aimed at easing the humanitarian crisis in the enclave during a.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, said an Air Force C-17 delivered the supplies to Egypt. They will then be transported on the ground to Gaza and distributed to civilians by the United Nations.
"With 1.7 million people internally displaced and 2.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance, increased humanitarian supplies are essential to saving lives and alleviating suffering for the most vulnerable," USAID said in a statement. The agency said U.S. Central Command transported the supplies at USAID's request "to further a surge of life-saving assistance to Palestinian civilians" during the ongoing temporary cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.
Trucks have been transporting supplies across Egypt's border with Gaza for weeks. The Hamas-controlled territory has been sealed off by Israel since the attacks by the group on Oct. 7. A senior administration official said that since President Bidenin October, more than 2,000 trucks have been delivered with food, water, medical assistance, shelter supplies and fuel. Mr. Biden has made it clear that, although the U.S. backs Israel in its fight against Hamas, the United States is committed to helping Palestinian civilians meet their basic needs.
"From the president on down, we understand that what is getting in is nowhere near enough for normal life in Gaza, and we will continue to push for additional steps, including the restoration of the flow of commercial goods, and additional basic services," one official said on a call with reporters to preview the airlifts.
USAID said the U.S. has provided more than 500,000 pounds of food aid in just the last week.
The next phase in providing support will entail allowing a flow of commercial goods into Gaza. The humanitarian mission will also entail establishing field hospitals in the region, some of which have already been set up in South Gaza. Vaccines are among the supplies being delivered, too, as are clean water and sanitation equipment to avoid cholera or typhoid outbreaks.
The aid is part of Mr. Biden's announcement last month of $100 million in humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank.
The recent pause in fighting between Hamas and Israel has allowed for theheld by the designated terrorist group, but the humanitarian aid and the hostage release are not connected, officials said. One of those released in the last few days was a 4-year-old American girl.
"The assistance that is being moved, the fuel that is being provided, are not linked to the hostage releases," one official said, adding that when this phase of the hostage releases is over, "increased levels ideally need to be sustained."
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