US military aircraft airdrop thousands of meals into Gaza in emergency humanitarian aid operation.

US military C-130 cargo planes dropped food in pallets over Gaza on Saturday in the opening stage of an emergency humanitarian assistance authorized by President Joe Biden after more than 100 Palestinians who had surged to pull goods off an aid convoy were killed during a chaotic encounter with Israeli troops. Three planes from Air Forces Central dropped 66 bundles containing about 38,000 meals into Gaza at 8:30 am EST (3:30 pm local).

The bundles were dropped in southwest Gaza, on the beach along the territory’s Mediterranean coast. The airdrop was coordinated with the Royal Jordanian Air Force, which said it had two food airdrops Saturday in northern Gaza and has conducted several rounds in recent months.

The amount of aid flowing to Gaza is not nearly enough and we will continue to pull out every stop we can to get more aid in,” President Joe Biden said Saturday in a post on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

US Central Command said on X that “the combined operation included US Air Force and RJAF C-130 aircraft and respective Army Soldiers specialized in aerial delivery of supplies, built bundles and ensured the safe drop of food aid.”

The US airdrop is expected to be the first of many.

Three Biden administration officials said the planes dropped the military Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) – shelf-stable meals that contain a day’s worth of calories in each sealed package – in locations that were thought would provide civilians with the greatest level of safety to access aid. Afterward, the US monitored the sites and was able to see civilians approach and distribute food among themselves, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide additional details that had not been made public.

Biden on Friday announced the US would begin air dropping food to starving Gazans after at least 115 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more wounded in the Thursday attack as they scrambled for aid, the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said.

Amidst the chaos, hundreds of people rushed towards approximately 30 trucks delivering aid in the predawn hours to the north. Palestinians alleged that nearby Israeli troops fired into the crowds. However, Israel countered, stating they fired warning shots towards the crowd and contended that many of the deceased were trampled in the ensuing commotion.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby addressed the situation on Friday, emphasizing that the airdrops were meticulously planned to provide emergency humanitarian assistance safely to those on the ground. The United States views these airdrops as crucial in alleviating the dire conditions in Gaza. However, Kirby emphasized that while airdrops have their advantages in speed, they cannot replace the effectiveness of trucks in transporting larger volumes of aid. Thursday’s events underscored the risks associated with ground transport.

The C-130 aircraft, widely employed for delivering aid to remote locations, boasts the capability to land in austere environments. With a capacity to airlift up to 42,000 pounds of cargo, its crews are adept at rigging cargo, including vehicles, onto massive pallets for safe air drops. Air Force loadmasters secure these bundles onto pallets with netting, rigged for release from the aircraft’s rear, with parachutes deployed to ensure safe delivery upon reaching the designated drop zone.

The versatility of the Air Force’s C-130 has been demonstrated in past humanitarian efforts, including missions to Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, and other locations. Notably, it plays a crucial role in the annual “Operation Christmas Drop,” a multinational effort delivering pallets of toys, supplies, nonperishable food, and fishing gear to remote areas in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.

Since the onset of the conflict on October 7, Israel has enforced strict limitations on the entry of food, water, medicine, and other supplies into Gaza, with only a trickle of aid permitted through the Rafah crossing from Egypt and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.

The United Nations has sounded the alarm, stating that one-quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants are facing starvation. Aid officials caution that while airdrops serve as a last resort in distributing aid, they are not an efficient means of addressing the crisis.