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5 people killed in Gaza as aid package parachute fails to deploy, officials and witness say

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Second U.S. airdrop for Gaza; U.N. reports on allegations of Hamas using sexual violence 04:34

Officials from Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health and an eyewitness told CBS News that five people were killed Friday by an aid airdrop package when at least one parachute failed to properly deploy and a parcel fell on them. The people were in the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, and the incident occurred at around 11:30 a.m. local time (4:30 a.m. Eastern).

CBS News was told there were two boys among the five people killed and that 11 others were injured in the incident. The exact ages of the casualties were not clear, but those injured were said to be between 30 and 50 years old.

The U.S., Jordan, Egypt, France, the Netherlands and Belgium dropped aid over Gaza Friday in an attempt to get supplies, including desperately needed food, to residents amid an ever-worsening humanitarian crisis there. A U.S. defense official told CBS News an initial review indicated the U.S. airdrop was not responsible for the fatalities on the ground, but said that further investigation was required.

U.S. Central Command stated that the fatalities were not caused by U.S. airdrops in a Friday evening social media post.

"We are aware of reports of civilians killed as a result of humanitarian airdrops," CENTCOM said. "We express sympathies to the families of those who were killed. Contrary to some reports, this was not the result of U.S. airdrops."

Video posted on social media showed a large cluster of aid parcels suspended from parachutes drifting through the sky but appearing to get tangled before one, with its chute deployed but not fully opened, drops much more quickly than the rest.

An image from video posted on social media on March 8, 2024, which CBS News could not independently verify, appears to show airdropped aid parcels falling to the ground in northern Gaza, where a witness and officials from the Hamas-run health ministry said 5 people were killed when at least one of the parcels' parachutes failed to properly deploy. One parcel can be seen near the bottom center of this screengrab that was seen falling much more quickly than the rest, with its parachute partially collapsed. 

The airdrops have been criticized by international aid agencies and others as wholly insufficient to meet the needs of the people of Gaza. 

The United Nations has warned of widespread famine among Gaza's roughly 2.3 million residents, and the global body's top humanitarian aid coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said Friday in a social media post marking six months of war in Gaza that the airdrops were a "last resort."

"All those concerned about the situation in Gaza should put pressure on Israeli government to grant unimpeded humanitarian land access & not blocking convoys," the European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Thursday, calling the airdrops "good but insufficient."

U.S. officials have acknowledged to CBS News that the airdrops are not enough to meet the huge need in Gaza. They say they're a statement that the world is not just standing by as a famine unfolds.

Friday's airdrops took place one day after President Biden announced that the U.S. military would build a temporary pier on Gaza's Mediterranean coast capable of receiving shipments of humanitarian aid including food, water, medicine, and temporary shelters, to increase the flow of such goods into the enclave.

Two U.S. officials told CBS News the current plan is for the pier to be installed by the U.S. Army's 7th Transportation Brigade, based at Ft. Story, Virginia. The ships required to do the work were still docked in Virginia as of Friday, and officials made it clear that it would be weeks before the project could be up and running.

Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said in a statement on Friday that Israel welcomed the plan, adding that it would "allow the increase of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, after security checks are carried out in accordance with Israeli standards."

Haiat said Israel would "continue the fight against Hamas — an organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and carried out the 7 October massacre — until its elimination and the return of all the hostages," while also continuing to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid in Gaza "in accordance with the rules of war and in coordination with the United States and our allies around the world."

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