Gaza aid shipped from Cyprus to be held in floating storage as US pier is repaired

Cypriot spokesman says aid will be left on remaining structure and offloaded to Gaza ‘when conditions allow’

A crane loads food aid for Gaza onto the container ship Sagamore docked at Larnaca port, Cyprus, May 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
A crane loads food aid for Gaza onto the container ship Sagamore docked at Larnaca port, Cyprus, May 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Humanitarian aid for civilians Gaza is continuing to depart Cyprus by sea and will be held in floating storage off the coast of the war-torn enclave until a US-built military pier undergoes repairs, a Cypriot government official said on Thursday.

The US military announced earlier in the week that a purpose-built jetty it had anchored off the coast to receive aid by sea was being temporarily removed after a part of the structure broke off, less than two weeks after it started operating.

The structure was part of an international effort to move food and other aid into Gaza, where some two million people are caught amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terror group.

Cyprus Government Spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis said offloading aid had slowed down, but the sea corridor had not ceased operating.

“The mechanism surrounding how the floating pier works allows for the possibility of floating storage off Gaza, with offloading to resume when conditions allow,” he said, blaming the problem on rough seas.

The pier was announced by US President Joe Biden in March and involved the military assembling the floating structure off the coast. Estimated to cost $320 million for the first 90 days and involve about 1,000 US service members, it went into operation two weeks ago.

A Pentagon spokesperson said a portion of the pier had separated and the pier would be towed to Ashdod Port in Israel for repairs.

A US Army landing craft is seen beached in Ashdod on May 26, 2024, after being swept by wind and current from the temporary humanitarian pier in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Letymbiotis said their information from the US was that the problem would be fixed in the coming days and that operation of the pier could “possibly” resume by the middle of next week.

Eleven ship-shuttles of aid had left Cyprus since the operation started, with enough aid already disbursed to “provide food to tens of thousands of noncombatants for a month,” Letymbiotis said.

“The aim of offering humanitarian aid to 500,000 people a month is possible,” he said.

American officials hope the pier at maximum capacity can bring the equivalent of 150 truckloads of aid to Gaza each day, out of an estimated 600 truckloads of food, emergency nutritional treatments, and other supplies that USAID says are needed each day.

The enclave has been ravaged by war since October 7, when thousands of terrorists poured from the territory into southern Israel, where they killed some 1,200 people and kidnapped 252.

The ensuing Israeli offensive in Gaza, aiming to topple the Hamas terror regime and free the hostages, has caused a humanitarian crisis in the enclave with much of the population at risk of starvation, according to human rights organizations and the United Nations.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 36,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The toll, which cannot be verified, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

It is believed that 121 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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