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Biden rebukes Israel over Gaza aid and says US will begin airdrops

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Joe Biden rebuked Israel on Friday, saying it had “no excuses” for not letting more aid into Gaza as he announced the US will soon begin airdropping food into the enclave.

Biden’s announcement and criticism come amid an increasingly acute humanitarian crisis on the ground after months of Israeli attacks in the enclave and is another sign of the US president’s deepening frustration with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We need to do more and the United States will do more and in the coming days, we are going to join with our friends from Jordan and others to provide airdrops of supplies,” Biden said, adding that the US was also exploring the possibility of opening “a marine corridor delivering large amounts of humanitarian assistance”.

The move reflects increasing concerns in the Biden administration over the civilian cost of Israel’s war in Gaza and the threat to lives amid disruption to aid shipments to the besieged enclave, with assistance failing to reach people most in need.

The US decision to begin airdrops also comes a day after more than 100 Palestinians were killed during a chaotic attempt to supply aid to civilians in northern Gaza. Palestinian authorities said Israeli troops opened fire on the people as they rushed towards the food. Israel said some people were killed in a rush to the aid trucks.

“We’re going to insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need,” Biden said. “No excuses, because the truth is aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough now.”

Biden has grown increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu, who has resisted US calls to rein its military in and do more to help civilians in Gaza. The president on Friday said Washington was continuing to press for a six-week ceasefire deal that include the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli jails and increased humanitarian assistance.

“Hopefully we will know shortly,” Biden said.

The Pentagon is still finalising plans for the airdrops, which will begin in the coming days, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said. Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have also airdropped assistance into Gaza.

“It will be part of a larger, longer sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance,” Kirby said. “It’ll be a supplement to not a replacement for moving things in by ground.”

The UN has warned that a quarter of Gaza’s population of more than 2mn is on the brink of famine. Aid deliveries to Gaza, especially in the North, have slowed to a trickle and descended into chaos amid increased lawlessness and looting.

Trucks with aid enter the Gaza strip via Egypt and through an Israeli border crossing, but the Israeli military has opened fire on some humanitarian convoys while Palestinian police are refusing to guard deliveries after an air strike on a shipment.

Israel’s military offensive has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health authorities and has created near-impossible conditions for aid deliveries.

Biden said: “Innocent people got caught in a terrible war unable to feed their families and you saw the response when they tried to get aid.”

Efforts to halt the war in Gaza to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas have not yet delivered a breakthrough despite pressure from the US, Qatar and Egypt.

Biden is also under mounting domestic political pressure over his handling of the war between Israel and Hamas and to do more to press Israel to end it.

In Michigan, which was a key state that helped Biden win the 2020 election, more than 100,000 people cast uncommitted protest ballots this week during the Democratic primary, in a sign of anger at White House support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

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