USAID official says Gaza floating pier expected to be operational ‘in coming days’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

US soldiers assemble the Roll-On, Roll-Off Distribution Facility (RRDF), or floating pier, off the shore of Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea on April 26, 2024. (US Army via AP)
US soldiers assemble the Roll-On, Roll-Off Distribution Facility (RRDF), or floating pier, off the shore of Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea on April 26, 2024. (US Army via AP)

The US Army JLOTS floating pier off of Gaza is expected to be operational “in the coming days,” says Dan Dieckhaus, response director for USAID, in a briefing.

The port was built in the Ashdod Port, where it remains, and commodities are currently in Cyprus being inspected and loaded, says Dieckhaus.

He warns that “the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains incredibly dire.”

“Humanitarian conditions are deteriorating, and insecurity is escalating, particularly in Rafah, and civilians are suffering,” he continues, adding that “the entire population of Gaza… is facing acute food insecurity, meaning they require food assistance. And the threat of famine is looming.”

“More than half the population in northern Gaza is facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity,” warns Dieckhaus, “and nearly 30% of the children there are severely malnourished.”

In the south, he says, it’s nearly half the population.

This is “further complicated by what is happening in Rafah,” he says, noting that around 450,000 people have fled since May 6 when the IDF took control of the Rafah Crossing. This “risks compounding a humanitarian catastrophe.”

He says aid workers are facing “significant challenges” getting food in and accessing warehouses.

The US is “greatly concerned about further population displacement,” from Rafah, says Dieckhaus.

He notes that there had been “some progress” on the amount of aid going into Gaza, and “more must be done now, especially in light of recent setbacks.”

He says that the US is pressing Israel to do more to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and to open additional land crossings into Gaza.

He stresses that the humanitarian organizations receiving the food will do so in an “independent, neutral, and impartial manner.”

Vice Admiral Bradley Cooper, deputy commander of the US Central Command, stresses repeatedly that the US military’s only role is “to provide our unique logistics ability” to bring in more aid.

It “has no other purpose,” Cooper stresses, adding that the US is now “focused on flooding the zone with humanitarian assistance.”

The ships will sail from Cyprus to a floating platform several kilometers off the Gaza shore. They will then be unloaded, then repacked and loaded onto smaller ships that can carry between five to fifteen truckloads of aid. Those ships will bring it to the floating causeway connected to the coast, where trucks will bring the aid to land.

The shipments will be received by the World Food Program and the United Nations.

In response to a question from The Times of Israel, Cooper will not say whether the US would respond to an attack on US troops by Hamas. “Any attack on those working on the mission is an attack on aid for the people of Gaza,” says Cooper.

The officer says that the US does not believe the pier is exposed to any additional risk beyond what is inherent in a war zone.

He adds that there are two coordination cells, one in Cyprus and one in Israel.

Jerusalem “has been highly supportive of this effort,” says Cooper.

The Palestinian Authority has also been looped into discussions with the US on the plan, says Dieckhaus. “Our understanding is that there is general support.”

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