US to temporarily remove aid pier from Gaza coast again due to bad weather

UN, aid agencies say transfer of goods from pier to Gazans remains suspended due to perception Israeli military used area during last week’s hostage rescue

The image provided by US Central Command shows American and Israeli forces placing the Trident Pier on the coast of Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024. (US Central Command via AP)
The image provided by US Central Command shows American and Israeli forces placing the Trident Pier on the coast of Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024. (US Central Command via AP)

WASHINGTON — The United States military is preparing to temporarily remove its humanitarian pier off the coast of Gaza because of anticipated sea conditions, a US official said on Friday, the latest challenge to the effort that has been hampered by bad weather since it was put into place in May.

The floating US military pier off Gaza had just resumed bringing humanitarian aid into the enclave after being suspended over the weekend.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the pier would likely be moved to the Israeli port of Ashdod until sea conditions improve.

Aid began arriving via the pier on May 17, and the United Nations said it transported 137 trucks of aid to warehouses, some 900 metric tons, before the US announced on May 28 that it had suspended operations so repairs could be made.

The UN said on Friday it had still not resumed transportation of aid from the pier to UN World Food Program warehouses.

“Our security colleagues are still working to ensure that secure conditions for humanitarian work can be re-established,” said deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq.

UN officials also said they were reassessing the use of the pier, claiming that Israeli military activity nearby had jeopardized the perceived neutrality of the aid route.

Rushing out a mortally wounded Israeli commando after last week’s hostage rescue raid, Israeli rescuers opted against returning the way they came, across a land border, Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters. Instead, they sped toward the beach and the site of the US aid hub on Gaza’s coast, he said. An Israeli helicopter touched down near the US-built pier and helped whisk away hostages and the commando, according to the US and Israeli militaries.

Rescued hostages are brought to an IDF helicopter on the beach in Gaza before being flown to Israel, June 8, 2024 (Screenshot via Kan News, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Israel and the US deny that any aspect of the month-old US pier was used in the Israeli raid. They say an area near it was used to fly home the hostages.

However, the UN World Food Program, which works with the US to transfer aid from the pier to warehouses and local aid teams for distribution within Gaza, suspended cooperation as it conducts a security review. Aid has been piling up on the beach since.

The UN has to look at the facts as well as what the Palestinian public and armed groups believe about any US, pier or aid worker involvement in the raid, Haq said.

“Humanitarian aid must not be used and must not be perceived as taking any side in a conflict,” Haq said. “The safety of our humanitarian workers depends on all sides and the communities on the ground trusting their impartiality.”

Rumors have swirled on social media, deepening the danger to aid workers, humanitarian groups say.

“Whether or not we’ve seen the pier used for military purposes is almost irrelevant. Because the perception of people in Gaza, civilians and armed groups, is that humanitarian aid has been instrumentalized” by parties in the conflict, said Suze van Meegen, head of operations in Gaza for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Oxfam International and some other aid organizations said they are waiting for answers from the US government because it’s responsible for the agreements with the UN and other humanitarian groups on how the pier and aid deliveries function.

Questions include whether the Israeli helicopters and security forces used what the US had promised aid groups would be a no-go area for the Israeli military around the pier, said Scott Paul, an associate director at Oxfam.

Trucks loaded with humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates and the United States Agency for International Development cross the Trident Pier before entering the beach in Gaza, May 17, 2024. (Staff Sgt. Malcolm Cohens-Ashley/US Army Central via AP)

US President Joe Biden announced in March the plan to put the pier in place for aid deliveries during the war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group.

The pier is estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars for the first 90 days and involves about 1,000 US service members.

The ongoing war in the enclave was started by the Hamas-led October 7 massacre in which Palestinian terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 251.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 37,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting, an unverified figure that does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. The toll is believed to include 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.

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