Palestinian boy who survived airstrike dies during food aid drop

<span>Ali Oroq’s grandson Zein died from his injuries after he was hit by an aid package airdropped on Gaza.</span><span>Photograph: Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters</span>
Ali Oroq’s grandson Zein died from his injuries after he was hit by an aid package airdropped on Gaza.Photograph: Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters

When an Israeli airstrike destroyed his family’s home in November, Zein Oroq was pinned under rubble. He was wounded but survived, while 17 members of his extended family died.

But Zein, 13, would later suffer a cruel fate in Gaza, where more than 2 million people have endured more than six months of food shortages and malnutrition.

US officials have said that that famine is already beginning to take hold in parts of the besieged coastal strip, where Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas have been fighting for more than six months.

Last week, during an airdrop of aid, Zein was struck by one of the packages as he rushed to try to get a can of fava beans, some rice or flour.

“The first time, when the house was hit by a strike, he came out from under the rubble with wounds in his head, hand and leg. God saved him,” said Zein’s grandfather, Ali Oroq.

The grandfather, standing by a large pool of wastewater, recalled how Zein would swim in a pond to get a meal from the air drops, and how he should have been at school instead.

But with mediators failing to secure a truce and Israel and Hamas braced for further war in Gaza, which has been rendered a wasteland by the fighting, his luck eventually ran out.

Related: Gaza airdrops might not be necessary if Israel faced more pressure on aid

“While parachutes were falling, an aid box hit his head. Also, the stampede of people who were heading towards the box did not pay attention to the boy – they were also hungry,” said his father Mahmoud.

“So, his head was cut and wounded, he got fractures in the pelvis, skull and abdomen, and with the flow of people, the pressure increased on him.”

Zein was taken to hospital, where he died on Sunday.

On 5 March, five people were killed and 10 injured when the parachute on a pallet of aid failed to open and it dropped to the ground, striking a group of people. On March 26, at least 12 people drowned while trying to reach an aid package that had landed in the sea off Gaza beach.

The war in Gaza began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel responded with a fierce offensive that has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health authorities, and turned much of the densely populated strip, home to 2.3 million people, into rubble, twisted steel and dust.

“My son is so precious. He was my support, my entire life, my first joy in this world, my biggest child. May he rest in peace,” said Mahmoud.