WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced the delivery of 54,000 pounds of medical items, food aid and winter gear for civilians in the Gaza Strip.
An Air Force C-17 landed Tuesday in Egypt and will be followed by another two flights this week, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. The relief flights are the first by the US military amid the Israel-Hamas war that began with the terror group’s shock October 7 attack on southern Israel.
“With 1.7 million people internally displaced and 2.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance, increased humanitarian supplies are essential to saving lives and alleviating suffering for the most vulnerable,” USAID said in a statement.
The United Nations will take the aid from Egypt’s North Sinai region, which borders the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, into the coastal enclave itself, US officials said.
“The movement over the last four or five days of assistance has been so significant in volume that a backfill… is now needed and these planes are part of that backfill,” a senior US official told reporters on an embargoed call Monday.
The US shipment follow 2,000 trucks of aid that have entered Gaza since Egypt’s Rafah crossing was first opened on October 21, two weeks into the war.
Roughly 200 trucks of aid have entered Gaza each day of the ongoing truce after an average of just 45 trucks per day were entering Gaza in the month prior.
The Biden administration is aiming to double the daily amount of trucks after the truce concludes, with senior administration officials saying Monday that they want commercial goods to begin entering Gaza again.
“In the coming days and weeks, US President Joe Biden and other senior members of the administration will continue to work to sustain and expand the international humanitarian response and rally the international community to urgently increase support to the UN Flash Appeal for Gaza,” Sullivan said.
The flights began a day after Biden said he would use an extension of a temporary truce to get more aid into Gaza, and as international efforts continue to further prolong the pause in fighting.
Mediator Qatar on Monday announced a 48-hour extension of the initial four-day ceasefire, opening the way for further releases of hostages seized by Hamas during the October 7 massacres, in which Palestinian terrorists killed some 1,200 people and abducted around 240.
Biden, who has firmly backed Israel while calling on it to reduce civilian casualties, said on Monday that the truce had allowed a “significant surge” in aid.
The White House said on Monday however that Israel had made it clear it would continue its war on Hamas whenever the truce ended.
US officials said Biden had warned Israel that it must not cause the same kind of mass displacements in southern Gaza that its offensive in the north triggered earlier this month.
“From the president down we have reinforced this in a very clear way for the government of Israel,” another US official said.