Temporary pier off Gaza to boost aid to Palestinians completed, US military says

By Isaac M May 16, 2024

A long-awaited temporary pier built in order to get urgent aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza has anchored to a beach off the besieged enclave, the US military has said. 

The US Central Command said its personnel anchored the pier at about 7.40am local time (5.40am BST) as part of a mission to deliver additional humanitarian aid to Gaza, where thousands of people are facing starvation as enough aid supplies have for months failed to make it in.

Israel recently seized the key Rafah border crossing in its push on that southern city on the Egyptian border, complicating the delivery of critical supplies.

“As part of this effort, no US troops entered Gaza. Trucks carrying humanitarian assistance are expected to begin moving ashore in the coming days. The United Nations will receive the aid and coordinate its distribution into Gaza,” a post on X said.

The UN, however, is yet to finalise how it will be involved in the distribution of aid once it comes off the pier.

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In its efforts to boost aid to Gaza, where Israel has launched a powerful bombing campaign following the 7 October attack, Washington is likely to face challenges which have beset the UN and other relief agencies for months.

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They include the risks of delivering critical aid in a war zone, as well as a dire shortage of fuel for trucks.

“Once you get food or supplies into the Gaza Strip, whether it’s from the pier or crossing points, there is no security and… There’s no fuel,” said Bob Kitchen, the International Rescue Committee’s vice president for emergencies.

Fraught with logistical, weather and security challenges, the maritime route is designed to bolster the amount of aid getting into the Gaza Strip, but it is not considered a substitute for far cheaper land-based deliveries that aid agencies say are much more sustainable.

The boatloads of aid will be deposited at a port facility built by the Israelis just southwest of Gaza City and then distributed by aid groups.

Heavy fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants on the outskirts of Rafah has displaced some 600,000 people, a quarter of Gaza’s population, UN officials say.

Another 100,000 civilians have fled parts of northern Gaza now that the Israeli military has restarted combat operations there.

Pentagon officials said the fighting in Gaza was not threatening the new shoreline aid distribution area, but they have made it clear that security conditions will be monitored closely and could prompt a shutdown of the maritime route, even just temporarily.

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