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Soldiers deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza

To mark Armed Forces Week we showcase how British soldiers have played a key role supplying more than 100 tonnes of life-saving aid from 120 parachutes to the people of Gaza.

Over the last few months, troops from 47 Air Despatch Squadron have packed dozens of pallets of UK aid, built the loads, attached parachutes, and loaded an RAF A400M Atlas at RAF Brize Norton.

The soldiers, who are part of the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) have then boarded the aircraft to help safely drop the load into Gaza and to be on hand in case of any logistical difficulties.

Over ten tonnes of food supplies were airdropped into Gaza for the first time in March, as part of international efforts to provide life-saving assistance to civilians. The aid consisted of water, rice, cooking oil, flour, tinned goods and baby formula.

The A400M flew from Amman in Jordan along the northern coastline of Gaza to airdrop the aid as part of a Jordanian-led international aid mission.

British military personnel again participated in a large-scale international aid airdrop when 12,000 kilograms of aid was dropped into Gaza on 9 April to coincide with Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan.

This was  at the time the largest airdrop of aid into Gaza on a single day and the culmination of careful planning alongside international partners to ensure the complex mission could be conducted safely and effectively.

We are proud to have supported the multinational humanitarian response with a niche capability" Major Aaron Thompson
47 Air Despatch Squadron

Major Aaron Thompson RLC, Officer Commanding 47 Air Despatch Squadron, reflects on the task:

“This was very much a joint operation and a major success story of a small army team delivering significant effect.

“We are proud to have supported the multinational humanitarian response with a niche capability that has enabled aid to get into a country where no other option was currently viable.”

Airdrops took place alongside the UK’s efforts to get aid into Gaza via land routes and international efforts to open a maritime aid corridor.

The UK began conducting airdrops in late March, as part of the Jordanian international initiative. The Royal Air Force used A400Ms, flying from Amman, Jordan, where aid pallets attached to parachutes were collected and loaded by RAF and British Army personnel.

The aid was dropped along the northern coastline of Gaza, with drop zones regularly surveyed to ensure civilians were not harmed. Each flight took around one hour and British personnel worked closely with the Royal Jordanian Air Force to plan and conduct each mission.

This joint RAF-Army operation in Gaza was the latest in a long line of humanitarian air missions where the two services have worked together, starting with the liberation of Paris during World War Two.

As well as 47 Air Despatch Sqn, another British Army unit, 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC, helped deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

A team of 18 personnel from the unit, consisting of Port Operators, Mexiflote crew, Combat Support Boat crew, and a REME Shipwright, were aligned to a Royal Navy task force, Littoral Response Group (South), in October 2023.

Once the RLC team was activated to load nearly 90 tonnes of humanitarian aid from Larnaca in Cyprus, the troops realised they would be delivering real life outputs as opposed to training serials.

The team was tasked to deliver the aid directly to the Egyptian Red Crescent, on New Year’s Day, at Port Said, Egypt.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship (RFA) Lyme Bay delivered more than 300 pallets of UK aid, containing over 10,000 thermal blankets and nearly 5,000 shelter kits, as well as 11 pallets of medical supplies on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus, into Port Said.

The aid was handed to the Egyptian Red Crescent Society for transfer to Rafah and distribution in Gaza by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The sense of personal pride and achievement that everyone who played a part in the delivery shares is a feeling I will not forget" Lieutenant Leo Blain
17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC

Lieutenant Leo Blain, 17 Port and Maritime RLC Detachment Commander, said:

“17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC has historically assisted in overseas humanitarian relief in multiple continents.

“Once again, a detachment from our regiment has been given the opportunity to not only showcase their niche capabilities, but also directly impact those whose lives have been severely impacted during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“The sense of personal pride and achievement that everyone who played a part in the delivery shares is a feeling I will not forget. I could not be prouder of the team.”

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