On Feb. 24, the United Nation’s World Food Program dropped 21 tons of humanitarian aid over the Syrian city of Deir Ez Zor. Caught between the Syrian regime and Islamic State fighters for nearly two years, the residents there were in desperate need of food, water, medicine and other supplies.

“We have received initial reports … that pallets have landed in the target areas as planned,” Stephen O’Brien, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the members of the U.N. Security Council later that day.

But it quickly became clear that wasn’t true. Many of the containers — dropped from cargo planes that flew as high as 20,000 feet in order to avoid ground fire — had strayed off course or broken open after hitting the ground.

Syrian army units inside the city had more than enough time to watch the crates sail down — and rush in to grab them. Little if any aid actually reached hungry civilians.

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Image courtesy of US Army