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Inside a U.S. airdrop mission to rush food into Gaza

U.S. continues to drop aid into Gaza
A look inside one of the U.S. aid drops into Gaza 02:42

Over the Gaza Strip — A fatal airdrop mishap in northern Gaza on Friday overshadowed news of hundreds of other parcels being successfully dropped by several planes that took off from Jordan, just east of Israel. Jordan, Egypt, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the U.S. have been delivering aid in this way as Israel faces mounting pressure to facilitate a significant increase in ground deliveries.

Officials from Gaza's Hamas-run Ministry of Health and an eye witness told CBS News five people were killed when at least one aid parcel's parachute failed to properly deploy and a parcel fell on them. The victims 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 on board a U.S. military C-130 cargo plane as it took off from Jordan — the last of the day's missions to deliver aid to Gaza, and the first time a U.S. broadcaster has been aboard one of the flights. A U.S. defense official told CBS News Friday that an initial review indicated the American airdrop did not cause the casualties on the ground, but said further investigation was required.  

After takeoff at around 1:20 p.m. local time, the U.S. C-130 flew due west for about an hour, over Israel, to northern Gaza. It banked out over the Mediterranean and then descended to 3,000 feet over what was long the Palestinian territory's biggest population center, the now-decimated Gaza City.

Parcels of food aid are seen in a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane right before being dropped to parachute down near Gaza City, March 8, 2024. CBS News

The huge plane's rear doors opened, revealing the destruction below and the white crest of waves against Gaza's Mediterranean coastline. The U.S. Air Force crew cut the cords keeping the packages in place, releasing them to slide over the edge with their parachutes promptly deploying.

The U.S. C-130 was carrying 16 packages on Friday, each holding 720 ready-to-eat meals, nearly two tons of rice, wheat, powdered milk and dates. 

It was the fourth U.S. airdrop of the week, all aimed at providing some modicum of relief to starving Palestinians caught up in the war between Israel and Hamas, which is now in its sixth month. 

On Saturday, a fifth airdrop delivered another 41,400 U.S. meal equivalents and 23,000 bottles of water into Northern Gaza, CENTCOM said on social media. It is the first U.S. drop to provide water.

Biden says Israel has responsibility to protect innocent lives in Gaza during State of the Union 02:43

Nobody, from officials in Washington to aid agencies still trying to work in Gaza, has suggested the airdrops are anywhere near enough to meet the desperate need on the ground.

The U.S. airdrops began Saturday, a day after President Biden announced the plans. He did so after more than 100 Gazans were killed in a chaotic encounter last week, when Israeli security forces opened fire on throngs of starving people rushing to grab food from a truck convoy that was under Israeli protection.

Global outcry grows after carnage at Gaza aid convoy 02:40

The Israel Defense Forces said most of the victims were killed in a stampede, but doctors in Gaza told CBS News most of those brought in dead or injured had gunshot wounds. 

The airdrops have been framed as missions of last resort. Planes are more expensive than trucks, need more fuel and more personnel, and deliver far less aid — by some estimates as much as 75% less.

In tacit acknowledgment of those facts and seemingly frustrated by Israel's slow approval process for more aid via land, President Biden, during his State of the Union address on Thursday, announced an emergency mission to open a new sea route for aid, with the U.S. military set to oversee construction of a temporary pier on Gaza's coast, to get more aid in faster.

It's expected to take several weeks to be ready, however.

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