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Aid deliveries to Gaza suspended after $320 million US-built pier breaks apart due to bad weather

A part of the US-built temporary pier used for humanitarian aid deliveries in the war-hit Gaza broke off due to bad weather in the heavy seas, according to officials. The US Defence Department said the pier would be removed temporarily for repairs, which are expected to take over a week.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: May 29, 2024 9:20 IST
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Image Source : REUTERS The US-built pier for humanitarian aid deliveries in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza: In a major blow to humanitarian aid delivery operations in the war-hit Gaza Strip, the US military was forced to suspend deliveries by sea after bad weather damaged the temporary Washington-built floating pier set up on the enclave's coast, according to local media reports. A part of the structure broke off and sustained damage in the heavy seas, causing the pier to be temporarily removed for repairs.

The temporary floating pier was pre-assembled at the Israeli port of Ashdod and moved into place on May 18 on the shore of Gaza, which lacks port infrastructure of its own. The US aimed to provide additional aid to Palestinian civilians involving aid commodities by a number of countries and humanitarian organisations, amid pressure on Israel to do more to combat the humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave.

"Due to high sea states and the North African weather system, earlier today, a portion of the Trident Pier separated from the pier that is currently anchored into the coast of Gaza. As a result, the Trident Pier was damaged and sections of the pier need rebuilding and repairing," said Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh on Tuesday.

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Image Source : PENTAGONThe pier was built at a cost of 0 million and involved 1,000 troops.

She further said that the pier will be removed from its anchored position over the next 48 hours and towed back to Ashdod, where US Central Command will conduct repairs, which are expected to last over a week. "The pier proved highly valuable in delivering aid to the people of Gaza.  Thus, upon completion of the pier, repair and reassembly, the intention is to re-anchor the temporary pier to the coast of Gaza and resume humanitarian aid to the people who need it most," she added.

How much aid has been provided to Gaza through the pier?

Aid groups, the United Nations and Israel's closest allies, have all demanded that Israel do more to get aid into Gaza, which has been largely laid to waste by the Israeli campaign launched last year after the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7. The pier operation was estimated to cost $320 million and involve 1,000 US troops, a US defence official and a source familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Since the pier began operations, the United Nations has transported 137 trucks of aid from the pier - the equivalent of 900 metric tons - said a UN World Food Programme spokesperson. The UN had agreed to assist in coordinating aid deliveries to Gaza after months of negotiations, even though Hamas claimed that the pier was not enough to meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian territory.

Part of the pier, which consists of a narrow causeway to drive aid into Gaza and a wider parking area to drop off supplies transported by ship, disconnected on Sunday, four US officials told CNN on Sunday. The parking area will have to be reconnected to the causeway before the pier can be used again. The temporary pier requires very good sea conditions to operate.

The US has stressed that the temporary pier is only meant to augment humanitarian shipments going through the land crossings between Israel and Gaza. Aid offloaded at the pier will come via a maritime corridor from Cyprus, where it is first inspected by Israel. US officials planned to initially send 90 trucks a day to Gaza, which could have been expanded to 150.

Only 906 aid trucks sent to Gaza since Israel's Rafah operation

Last week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that between May 7 and May 23, after the launch of Israel's Rafah operation, only 906 truckloads entered the enclave of 2.3 million people, where famine looms amid the war between Israel and Hamas. About 800 of these were food supplies, according to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. These deliveries are inadequate to combat the dire humanitarian needs of Palestinians in Gaza, where essential supplies have been cut off and nearly all hospitals are unable to function.

The two main crossings in southern Gaza, Rafah from Egypt and Kerem Shalom from Israel are either not operating or are largely inaccessible for the UN because of fighting nearby as Israel pushes into Rafah. Deliveries also were halted for two days last week after crowds rushed aid trucks coming from the pier and one Palestinian man was shot dead.

The UN says at least 500 trucks a day of aid and commercial goods need to enter Gaza. In April, an average of 189 trucks entered a day - the highest since the war started in October. The suspension of the US-built pier comes after the new sea route had begun to pick up steam, with more than 1,000 metric tons of food aid delivered.

(with inputs from agencies)

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