What a New York Times photographer saw during an airdrop in Gaza

The huge rear gate of the Jordanian Air Force cargo plane slowly lowers like a rigid iron jaw, revealing a hazy blue sky and, far below, the battered landscape of northern Gaza.

Inside the plane's cavernous hold, supplies delivered by the crew are lined up in neat rows: chest-high bundles of boxes stacked on wooden pallets, each bound with shrink-wrap and heavy straps and marked with images of the flag of Jordan.

Now, as light and sound rush in, the bundles slide along rollers in the floor and disappear out the door, floating beneath billowing parachutes as a silent, and quite possibly inadequate, offering to the desperate populace below.

With humanitarian groups and others sounding the alarm about a looming famine in northern Gaza and widespread hunger across the territory, airdrops are playing a leading role in efforts to deliver food, water and urgently needed supplies to the Palestinians.

On Thursday, the Jordanian Air Force allowed a New York Times photographer to watch one of its planes drop aid packages into northern Gaza. The journey, taking off and returning from Jordan's King Abdullah II air base, east of Amman, lasted several hours.

Countries including Jordan, the United States, Britain and France say the reductions are helping to offset a sharp drop in the amount of aid entering Gaza by truck since October 7, when Hamas carried out a deadly attack on Israel, and Israel responded with a months-long attack. military assault.

The United Nations and aid groups have complained that truck deliveries are being slowed by Israel's insistence on inspecting all supplies destined for Gaza. Most humanitarian trucks were only allowed through two border crossings – one from Egypt and one from Israel – in southern Gaza.

Israel claims that disorganization among aid groups is responsible for the slow delivery of aid to the Palestinians and that much of the aid is diverted to Hamas or the black market, although it cannot verify such claims.

One of the few alternatives is to drop supplies from the sky, a process that requires only a few minutes in the air but extensive bureaucracy and hours of preparation in the field.

The dozens of pallets pushed off the planes Thursday contained thousands of meals, the Jordanians said. But airdrops are inefficient and expensive, aid officials say, and even large military cargo planes carry less than a single convoy of trucks could.

And airdrops can be dangerous: This week, authorities in Gaza said 12 people drowned while trying to recover supplies that fell into the ocean.

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