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Gaza: Emergency aid pier is almost ready



The platform bobs sluggishly in the sea, built of several steel pontoons anchored to the seabed to form a large pier, soon to dock ships bringing urgently needed aid to Gaza.

The photos published by the US Central Command on X earlier this week suggest that work on the US makeshift pier is almost complete. Floating several miles off the coast of Gaza, it will be guarded by around 1,000 armed US soldiers. They are just one component of a complex logistics chain that will cost at least $320 million (€297 million).

The pier will be just the first landing point for the aid freighters coming through this new sea route from Cyprus around 200 nautical miles away. The water is too shallow to directly reach the coast, which means that pallets of supplies must be unloaded here and transferred via forklifts to trucks, which will then be driven onto smaller army ships and transported several miles further.

The trucks will be unloaded on a two-lane pier built from more pontoons and secured by the Israeli military around 600 meters from shore. From there, the pallets will be then handed over to aid organizations for distribution.

The plan is for 90 trucks to bring relief supplies to Gaza each day via this route, increasing to 150 as soon as the pier is fully operational.

Festive offer

Critics dispute the project’s utility

The project is controversial in the US. Not just expensive, critics say that an already functioning Israeli deep-sea port in Ashdod just 30 kilometers north of the Gaza Strip would be a far easier and cheaper choice for delivering aid via the recently opened Erez border crossing in northern Gaza.

Instead, US President “Biden is committing the United States military to conducting a highly complex, very expensive, low-production operation to bring food into the strip — when Biden could massively increase the amount of food into the strip with far less effort or expense,” military expert Daniel Davis commented in an article by the Quincy Institute, a US foreign policy think tank.

He noted that the US had not exhausted its leverage with the Israeli government to open Ashdod and Erez for deliveries. Several tons of aid shipments were stuck in Ashdod for months because the Israeli government refused to cooperate with the United Nations Palestinian Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on distribution, claiming that the organization had been infiltrated by Hamas and was involved in its massacre of Israeli civilians on October 7 that sparked the war. Israeli protesters have also repeatedly blocked aid shipments to Gaza.

Concerns about US military involvement

There are also concerns that US soldiers could become involved in the conflict. President Biden has categorically said “no US boots on the ground in Gaza.” However, around 1,000 American troops have now been deployed to secure the aid delivery pier, which is within firing range from the coast of Gaza.

The Israeli army took fire while attempting to anchor their part of the pier on April 25. In a congressional inquiry, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said a similar attack on US soldiers was possible but did not specify how they might respond.

The US military presence is also causing some resentment on the Palestinian side. There are already speculations on social media that Washington could be aiming to build a kind of military bridgehead to Gaza to support Israel’s fight against Hamas. Others have suggested that the US is actually using the floating platform to exploit a gas field off the Gaza coast under the cover of providing humanitarian aid. While there is no reliable evidence for such a claim, it indicates a deep distrust of the project.

The distribution quandary

President of Refugees International Jeremy Konyndyk pointed out another problem with this aid plan back in March to The Guardian: “Who is going to distribute it?” The presence of aid organizations in the northern Gaza Strip is “close to zero,” he said, adding that the sea corridor would only help to a limited extent while shifting the problem of distribution from the borders to the interior.

Northern Gaza has been largely destroyed and public order has collapsed amid widespread famine. On Thursday, Washington accused the radical Islamist Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by Germany, the EU, US and other states, of intercepting and diverting aid supplies on a large scale in northern Gaza for the first time. The goods have since been released and returned to the humanitarian organization they were taken from, but the incident highlights how unstable the situation on the ground remains. Amid ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas, international aid organizations continue to express serious concerns about the safety of their staff.

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