Temporary pier off Gaza to boost aid to Palestinians completed, US military says: Israel-Hamas war

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Published Time: 16.05.2024 - 10:40:41 Modified Time: 16.05.2024 - 10:40:41

The pier was one of the last steps before the launch of a maritime port promised by US President Joe Biden to speed the flow of humanitarian aid to Palestinians

The pier was one of the last steps before the launch of a maritime port promised by US President Joe Biden to speed the flow of humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

By Claire Gilbody Dickerson, news reporter

Thursday 16 May 2024 08:19, UK

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.

According to military leaders, the operation will set off slowly to test the system, with an initial figure of about 90 truckloads of aid a day expected to quickly increase to 150.

An initial shipment from Cyprus is estimated to be enough for a month of provisions for 11,000 people, according to a defence official quoted by Reuters.

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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.

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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.

The site has already been targeted by mortar fire during its construction and Hamas, the ruling militant group in Gaza responsible for the killing of 1,200 people in southern Israel on 7 October, has threatened to target any foreign forces who "occupy" the Gaza Strip.

The "protection of US forces participating is a top priority. And as such, in the last several weeks, the United States and Israel have developed an integrated security plan to protect all the personnel who are working", said Navy Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, a deputy commander at the US military's Central Command.

"We are confident in the ability of this security arrangement to protect those involved."

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.

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