US carries out first air drop of food and aid over Gaza as ceasefire plans emerge

US officials claim that Israel has agreed to framework of proposed Gaza ceasefire

The US military has dropped thousands of food and aid pallets over Gaza, two days after more than 100 Palestinians were killed whilst pulling supplies from an aid truck.

Three C-130 cargo planes dropped 66 bundles containing about 38,000 meals into the besieged enclave on Saturday morning.

It is expected to be the first of many air drops, which were announced by President Joe Biden. The aid will be coordinated with Jordan, which has also conducted air drops to deliver food to Gaza.

Separately, senior US officials have confirmed that Israel has endorsed a proposed framework for a six-week ceasefire and hostage release in Gaza.

International mediators have been working for weeks to broker a deal to pause the fighting before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins.

Neither Israel nor Hamas are yet to publicly confirm the deal.

It comes after at least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others were injured on Thursday, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Witnesses alleged that Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy.

UN Secretary General’s spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told a news conference on Friday “from what they saw, in terms of the patients alive and getting treatment is that there is a large number of gunshot wounds,” Dujarric said.

Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a stampede linked to the chaos and that its troops fired at some in the crowd who they believed moved toward them in a threatening way.

The Israeli government has said it is investigating the matter.

Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda Hospital, told The Associated Press that of the 176 wounded brought to the facility, 142 had gunshot wounds and the other 34 showed injuries from a stampede.

The White House had been weighing the merits of US military air drops of assistance for several months, but had held off due to concerns that the method is inefficient, has no way of ensuring the aid gets to civilians in need and cannot make up for overland aid deliveries.

Administration officials said their preference was to further increase overland aid deliveries through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border points and to try to get Israel to open the Erez Crossing into northern Gaza.

The incident on Thursday appeared to tip the balance and push Biden to approve air drops.

In a video released by the Israeli army on Thursday, Palestinians surround aid trucks in what was said to be the first delivery in a month. Credit: IDF via AP

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said that air drops are difficult operations, but the acute need for aid in Gaza informed the president's decision.

He stressed that ground routes will be continued to be used to get aid into Gaza, and that the air drops are a supplemental effort.

“It’s not the kind of thing you want to do in a heartbeat. you want to think it through carefully," Kirby said.

He added: “There’s few military operations that are more complicated than humanitarian assistance air drops”

In his visit with Meloni at the White House on Friday, Biden also sought to assure European leaders that the US remains behind Ukraine, even as he's been unable to win passage of a supplemental foreign aid package that includes $60 billion (£47.44 billion) for Ukraine in addition to $35 billion (£27.7 billion) for Israel and Taiwan.

The legislation has passed the Senate, but Republican Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to put it up for a vote in the House.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…