Vital help but 'not anything near enough': On board a Jordan air force flight dropping aid to desperate Gazans

There's a renewed urgency to the delivery of food to Gaza but there are still struggles for the aid to keep pace with the escalating humanitarian catastrophe inside the besieged enclave.

We joined the small kingdom of Jordan's air force crew coordinating the multi-nation coalition to get aid to the thousands of Gazans cut off in the north of the Strip.

Around 10 planes - all variations of C-130s - spent the day delivering several tonnes of food which were dropped from the air at more than a dozen different locations in north Gaza.

The fleet of planes, led by Jordan, included those from Egypt, Belgium and Holland, as well as the US.

Follow latest: Pictures of aid drop over Gaza show scale of devastation

The aid pallets contained essential food supplies including flour, rice, tins of fish and baby formula, as well as some water supplies. They were mostly in 300kg packages able to feed about 100 people.

All involved know that's not nearly enough, but it will provide critical help to families who are in what the UN and US describe as a catastrophic humanitarian situation.

For the first time though, the Jordanians will be dropping some of the aid using British-provided SC-15 parachutes, which can carry much heavier loads of up to 1,000kg - or one tonne of food.

The whole operation is a feat of coordination involving several countries, planes and loads, as well as liaising with Israeli authorities.

The C-130 Hercules aircraft are large carriers which have a long military history. According to Lockheed Martin: "Since its first flight in 1954, the Hercules has been everywhere and done just about anything.

"Aircrews have flown it to both poles, landed or airdropped military supplies to hot spots from Vietnam to Afghanistan and performed countless relief operations around the globe."

Military analysts say they're very much favoured by military all over the world with more than 70 countries having them in their fleet.

They're the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas and have "the longest, continuous military aircraft production run in history and one of the top three longest, continuous aircraft production lines of any type".

The Sky crew was on one of two planes being operated by the Jordanian air force on Saturday's operation.

'Bleak horizon of flattened homes'

One airman told us on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorised to talk to the media, of their pride in his country leading the airdrop effort to help hungry Palestinians.

Jordan is home to the highest number of Palestinians in the world living outside of the territories, and so feels a special bond with what's going on in Gaza. The Jordanian Queen, Rania, is of Palestinian origin.

The journey from Amman's King Abdullah airbase to the north of Gaza took about an hour and a half to reach the Gaza coastline.

We saw a blackened landscape from the C-130 portholes. You could pick out a bleak horizon of flattened homes and those still upright appeared roofless.

'Within seconds it was all over'

The Hercules circled and turned back on itself to get into position. The air crew hastily checked and rechecked the parachute ties to ensure they were primed and ready for opening.

Each pallet had a parachute strapped to the top and static lines pinned to the aircraft so as soon as the order was given, the pallets would roll towards the plane's hatch at the rear and the lines would pull open the parachutes as each pallet exited.

We hovered over the north of Gaza briefly, then the thumbs up was given. The eight pallets went out in two batches.

Within seconds, it was all over and the hatch closed.

Hours of preparations, and multinational co-ordination had preceded the drop. It's hoped a few hundred people may be able to benefit from our aid delivery.

On the ground, our Sky crew was waiting with thousands of desperate people as the handful of planes began spitting out their cargo at the allocated spots.

Read more:
West has lost patience with Israel over Gaza aid
UK involved in US port plans for Gaza 'from the start'
Biden: Ceasefire before Ramadan 'looking tough'

'Difference between living and dying'

As our crew filmed, there was a sudden surge as the crowd ran towards the parachutes floating down on the horizon. Then more and more from different planes.

By the time the pallets had hit terra firma, the crowds were almost wild with desperation. The constant bombing; the constant fear; the constant hunger has stripped out their basic shared humanity.

Our cameraman picked out at least one man diving headlong into the crowd scrambling to snatch whatever food he could in a sea of hungry people. It could make the difference between living and dying over the next few days.

As our aircraft pulled away and swung back towards Amman, the crew on board sat sombrely, reflecting on what they'd just witnessed.

They'd done all that they could, and not a single person heading back felt it was anything near enough.