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US aid airdrop turns fatal, kills five; Canada lifts freeze on UNRWA funding

US aid airdrop turns fatal, kills five; Canada lifts freeze on UNRWA funding

Five people lost their lives and several others sustained injuries after a humanitarian airdrop went awry north of Gaza City's Shati refugee camp. The incident occurred on Friday when a parachute carrying aid failed to open, causing a pallet to crash into a crowd eagerly waiting for food.

The Gaza government media office confirmed the casualties and criticized the airdrops as "useless" flashy propaganda rather than a genuine humanitarian service. They called for food to be allowed through land crossings, highlighting the dire conditions faced by several hundred thousand people in northern Gaza living amidst the ruins of their homes without essential services.

The casualties were rushed to Gaza City's al-Shifa hospital, where the head nurse of the emergency room, Mohammed al-Sheikh, described the grim situation. A witness from the camp, Mohammed al-Ghoul, recounted the incident, stating that he and his brother had followed the parachuted aid in the hope of receiving basic supplies. Unfortunately, the parachute failed to open, plummeting like a rocket onto a house roof, resulting in three fatalities and numerous injuries.

Both the US and Jordan had conducted airdrops in northern Gaza to address the severe humanitarian crisis exacerbated by more than five months of war. However, a US defence official emphasized that the fatalities were not caused by the US airdrop, while a Jordanian military source denied any involvement in the tragic incident.

The Hamas-run Gaza government media office dismissed airdrops as futile, insisting that it is not the most effective way for aid to enter the region. They urged for a more practical approach, emphasizing the challenges faced by aid agencies due to logistical obstacles, public order breakdown, and bureaucratic hurdles imposed by Israel.

The limited entry points allowed by Israel in the south of Gaza have further complicated humanitarian efforts. Convoys face up to 25 miles of damaged roads, risking looting and encountering delays caused by Israeli forces. Last week, over 100 people died near an aid convoy in Gaza when Israeli forces opened fire, sparking controversy over the cause of the fatalities.

International responses varied, with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees expressing sympathy for the victims and highlighting the need for more consistent humanitarian deliveries through established road crossings. The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, urged pressure on the Israeli government to grant unimpeded humanitarian land access, emphasizing the situation's urgency.

In a related development, Canada announced lifting a freeze on funding for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). The decision comes after facing criticism for cutting assistance during Israel's war in Gaza. Canadian Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussein stated that the government is resuming funding to UNRWA to respond to the urgent needs of Palestinian civilians.

The decision to cut funding for UNRWA had drawn concerns and calls for reconsideration from rights advocates. Israel's accusations against agency employees of participating in a Hamas attack lacked concrete evidence, and Canada had not seen any intelligence supporting the claim before deciding to cut funding.

As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to unfold, the need for effective and efficient aid delivery mechanisms becomes increasingly critical to address the dire conditions faced by the population.

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