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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: US airdrops food into Gaza

Published March 2, 2024last updated March 2, 2024

A US official says Israel has endorsed a framework for a proposed six-week cease-fire and the release of vulnerable hostages. Meanwhile, US military planes dropped 38,000 meals into the war-torn Gaza strip.

A military cargo plane seen over Gaza with packages floating down on parachutes
The White House has said Israel was supportive of the airdropsImage: Kosay Al Nemer/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • The US military has started what should be the first of many food airdrops over the enclave
  • Hamas has yet to approve cease-fire deal which is 'more or less' accepted by Israel — US official
  • US President Joe Biden voiced hope for a deal before Ramadan but said "we're not there yet" 

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Skip next section Israel 'more or less' approves cease-fire outline, US official says
March 2, 2024

Israel 'more or less' approves cease-fire outline, US official says

Israel has essentially endorsed a framework of a proposed six-week cease-fire in Gaza, a US official told reporters on Saturday, adding that the deal had yet to be approved by the Hamas militants . Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by the US, Germany, Israel and the European Union, among other governments.

The senior official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.

"The hostages have to be released," the official told reporters. "The deal is basically there. But I don't want to create expectations one way or the other."

He said Israel had "more or less accepted" the six-week cease-fire proposal, which also involves the release of Israeli hostages who are considered vulnerable. Israel has yet to formally confirm the plan.

"Right now, the ball is in the court of Hamas, and we are continuing to push this as hard as we possibly can," the official said.

Hamas officials arrived in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Saturday with cease-fire talks set to resume. The AP news agency cited a senior Egyptian official as saying mediators from Cairo and Doha expected to receive a response from Hamas during the talks.

Separately, a source close to Hamas  told the French AFP news agency that the militant group would deliver its "official answer" to the plan, which resulted from talks with Israeli negotiators in Paris late last month. 

Mediators have been pushing for a cease-fire ahead of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, which begins in the evening of March 10. The death toll in Gaza has exceeded 30,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

Skip next section US military planes drop thousands of meals into Gaza
March 2, 2024

US military planes drop thousands of meals into Gaza

Three military planes dropped pallets of food into the Gaza Strip on Saturday, US officials said, as the territory faces a growing humanitarian crisis after months of war.

Three C-130 cargo planes dropped about 38,000 meals into Gaza, according to officials cited by news agencies.

The air deliveries are expected to be the first of many, as announced by President Joe Biden on Friday. The aid is being coordinated with Jordan, which has also been using planes to deliver food to Gaza. 

Airdrops 'inefficient, expensive and risky', expert says

The White House has said the airdrops will be a prolonged effort, and that Israel was supportive of the airdrops. Other countries, including France, Egypt and Jordan, have also carried out airdrops of aid into the region.

Skip next section Cargo ship attacked by Houthis in February sinks in Red Sea
March 2, 2024

Cargo ship attacked by Houthis in February sinks in Red Sea

Yemen's internationally recognized government on Saturday said that the Rubymar cargo vessel — attacked by Houthi rebels on February 18 — has sunk. This was separately confirmed by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center.

The vessel sunk during strong winds, Yemen's official SABA news agency quoted a government crisis group as saying. The officials warned of potential for an "environmental disaster."

The Iran-backed Houthis attacked the UK-owned, Belize-flagged vessel that was carrying 41,000 tons of fertilizer.

According to the US military, the attack caused significant damage and an oil slick 18 miles (29 kilometers) wide.

The vessel is the first to have been sunk since the Houthis began launching attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea.

Because of the continuing attacks, major shipping companies are increasingly avoiding the Red Sea and Suez Canal — the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe.

Instead, they are sailing around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, which takes several days longer and adds to costs.

A picture released by the US military in February, shows the oil slick caused by the damaged Rubymar bulk carrier
The Rubymar bulk carrier had to be abandoned after it was severely damaged following a Houthi attackImage: US Central Command/AFP
Skip next section Palestinian Authority voices hope for cease-fire before Ramadan
March 2, 2024

Palestinian Authority voices hope for cease-fire before Ramadan

Riyad al-Maliki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that governs the West Bank, has said the PA hopes a cease-fire can be brokered for Gaza in time for Ramadan. 

Speaking at a news conference at a diplomatic forum in Antalya, Turkey, Maliki also said that the PA would be "the only legitimate authority" to run Gaza after the war. 

The PA lost control of Gaza to the Hamas militant group in 2007.

Its government also issued its resignation this week, with outgoing Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh calling for intra-Palestinian consensus as he said his government would step down. It's not yet clear what will follow.

Israel and Hamas have been negotiating through mediators, in a bid to reach a cease-fire deal before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is scheduled to start in just over a week. 

Skip next section 'Hopefully we'll know shortly' — Biden says of cease-fire proposal
March 2, 2024

'Hopefully we'll know shortly' — Biden says of cease-fire proposal

US President Joe Biden on Friday said that he was "hoping" for a cease-fire agreement to be reached between Israel and Hamas amid ongoing mediation efforts to secure a deal.

"We’ve been working, and hopefully we’ll know shortly," Biden said during in comments made alongside Italian Prime Minister and G7 chair Giorgia Meloni.

"We’re trying to work out a deal between Israel and Hamas on the hostages being returned, and an immediate cease-fire in Gaza for at least the next six weeks, and to allow the surge of aid through the entire Gaza Strip — not just the south but the entire Gaza Strip." Biden said.

The talks also involved Qatar and Egypt among the mediators.

Speaking in her capacity as G7 chair Meloni said the international community needed to "coordinate" to "avoid an escalation" and said US mediation efforts to try and bring about a cease-fire were fully supported.

Meloni said alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was the "number one priority" and that Italy's focus was on this, as well as bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.

After talks, Biden was asked by reporters whether a deal could be expected by Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that will start in just over a week.

"I'm hoping so, we're still working real hard on it. We're not there yet," he told reporters at the White House as he headed to his helicopter to spend the weekend at the presidential Camp David retreat.

Biden also said that the US would start airdropping humanitarian aid, a day after over 100 Palestinians were killed while trying to obtain aid from a convoy of trucks.

Gaza aid convoy incident leaves scores dead

Skip next section Houthi missile destroyed in Yemen — US Central Command
March 2, 2024

Houthi missile destroyed in Yemen — US Central Command

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Saturday that American forces had destroyed a Houthi surface-to-air missile in Yemen on Friday.

CENTCOM said "forces conducted a self-defense strike against one Iranian-backed Houthi surface-to-air missile that was prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen towards the Red Sea."

CENTCOM said the Houthis had launched an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) earlier on Friday from Yemen into the Red Sea. No impact or damage to vessels was reported.

The militant group has been targeting vessels in the Red Sea, saying it is a response to the conflict in Gaza. 

In January, the US designated the Houthis as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist group."

US and British forces have been carrying out strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen as they try to secure maritime routes in the Red Sea.

Germany has also deployed a warship to the area to assist in security efforts.

kb/msh, dj (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)