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US military says aid pier anchored to Gaza beach

By AFP - May 17,2024 - Last updated at May 17,2024

Tents are set up by displaced Palestinians amid the devastation in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday (AFP photo)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — US troops on Thursday anchored a long-awaited temporary pier, aimed to boost aid deliveries into war-ravaged Gaza, to a beach in the besieged Palestinian territory, the US military and Israel said.

The US Central Command said the pier was "successfully affixed to the beach in Gaza" at around 7:40am (04:40 GMT), with around 500 tonnes of aid expected to enter the Palestinian territory in the coming days.

"It's a pretty substantial amount, and it's spread out over multiple ships right now," Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, deputy CENTCOM commander, told reporters in Washington.

"The connection of the floating pier in the Gaza Strip was successfully completed," Israel's military said in a statement later on Thursday.

President Joe Biden announced the emergency pier in March to address the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where the United Nations has warned of famine with virtually the entire population displaced by the Israeli military action in response to the October 7 Hamas attack.

Built at a cost of at least $320 million, the project is extraordinary in that such massive humanitarian efforts by the United States are usually in response to actions by hostile countries, not a US ally.

The humanitarian assistance is being screened in Cyprus and loaded by truck. Once on land, it will “move quickly”, being offloaded from the coast into Gaza within hours, Cooper said, adding that “thousands of tonnes of aid are in the pipeline”.

He said that around 1,000 US soldiers and sailors were involved in the operation but that they were only involved in the pier and not in delivery — which will be handled through the UN.

“There will be no US military boots on the ground in Gaza,” he said.

‘Land routes most effective’ 

The United Nations has warned of a looming famine in Gaza, where it says the vast majority of the coastal territory’s 2.4 million inhabitants have been displaced since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, now in its eighth month.

The bloodiest-ever Gaza war began after Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s military retaliation has killed at least 35,272 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

The UN has argued that opening up land crossing points and allowing more aid trucks into Gaza is the only way to stem the spiralling humanitarian crisis.

But the primary crossing into Gaza, on the territory’s border with Egypt, has been closed for days after Israel seized it from Hamas last week.

Israeli troops took over the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing as the military threatened a wider assault on the southern city, defying warnings from the United States and others over the fate of some 1.4 million civilians who had been sheltering there.

More required 

Cyprus, the Mediterranean island nation that is the departure point for aid on the planned maritime corridor, said US ship James A. Loux left on Wednesday, carrying relief supplies and “technical equipment for the unloading and transportation of the aid to the jetty”.

Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said that “new departures are expected, transporting humanitarian aid including food items, medical supplies, hygiene and temporary shelter”.

Britain, meanwhile, said its contribution of an initial nearly 100 tonnes of “shelter coverage kits” figured in the first shipment.

The pier will begin with facilitating the delivery of around 90 truckloads of international aid into Gaza each day, before volumes are scaled up to 150 truckloads daily, a British statement said late Wednesday, without providing a clear timeline.

The maritime corridor was “not a replacement for aid being delivered through land routes, which remain the quickest and most effective way of getting much-needed aid into Gaza”, the statement said.

“We know that more is required, particularly via land,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in the statement.

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