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People in the Gaza Strip drown trying to retrieve airdropped aid, authorities say

Authorities in the Gaza Strip said Tuesday that several people had drowned while trying to retrieve airdropped aid that had fallen into the Mediterranean, the latest incident in which an airdrop has apparently led to deaths. They called for an end to airdrops over the territory and an increase in deliveries by land.

People waded into the water from a beach in northern Gaza on Monday afternoon to get the aid packages, according to Ahmed Abu Qamar, a Gaza-based researcher for EuroMed Rights, a human rights group, who said he had spoken to witnesses. About a dozen people drowned, including at least one who had become entangled in a parachute, he said. Others were taken to a nearby hospital.

The government media office in Gaza said that 12 people had drowned off the northern coast while trying to retrieve aid that had been dropped in the sea. It was not possible to confirm the details independently, and it was not clear which country was responsible for the airdrop in question.

Three of approximately 80 aid bundles dropped by the United States on Monday “were reported to have had parachute malfunctions and landed in the water,” a Pentagon spokesperson, Sabrina Singh, said at a news conference Tuesday but added that she could not confirm the reports of the drownings.

The aid was intentionally dropped over water and intended to be carried to land by wind drift, to mitigate potential harm in the event that the parachutes failed to deploy, Singh said.

The fatalities were not the first connected to aid drops. Earlier this month, authorities in Gaza said that at least five Palestinians had been killed and several others wounded when airdropped aid packages fell on them in Gaza City. On Tuesday, the Gaza government media office said that six other people had died during what it characterized as stampeding, trying to get aid that was airdropped in other locations.

The United Nations and other aid organizations say that trucks, rather than planes, are the cheapest, safest and most effective means of delivering aid to Gaza, a territory whose population of more than 2 million faces a hunger crisis that humanitarian organizations say borders on famine.

But several governments, including those of the United States, France, Jordan and Egypt, have in recent weeks used airdrops to supplement aid that arrives by land, while also calling on Israel to allow in more trucks.

Britain airdropped aid to Gaza for the first time Monday, delivering more than 10 tons of supplies along the northern coastline as part of a mission led by Jordan, the British defense ministry said in a statement.

Governments say that the drops are necessary because of a steep fall in the amount of aid entering Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas led a deadly attack on Israel. The number of aid trucks entering Gaza since then has fallen by around 75%, according to U.N. data. One charity, World Central Kitchen, delivered a bargeload of aid to Gaza earlier this month.

Governments and aid groups say Israel has slowed aid deliveries through stringent inspections of trucks. Authorities in Israel blame UNRWA, the United Nations aid agency that supports Palestinians, arguing that Israel can inspect and process aid trucks faster than humanitarian groups can distribute the aid inside the territory.

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