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First aid flows into Gaza over massive U.S. pier

Trucks carrying desperately needed humanitarian aid have begun moving ashore into Gaza using a temporary pier built by the United States, the U.S. military said Friday, as Israeli forces pressed on with sweeping operations in the north and south of the enclave.

The aid trucks began moving into Gaza at around 9 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET), the U.S. Central Command said in a post on X.

“No U.S. troops went ashore in Gaza,” CENTCOM said. “This is an ongoing, multinational effort to deliver additional aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza via a maritime corridor that is entirely humanitarian in nature,” it added, noting that aid was being donated by a number of countries and humanitarian organizations.

That’s less than a day after the U.S. successfully towed its floating dock system to the shores of the Palestinian enclave, where Israel’s military assault has shut off a number of crossings that are crucial for supplies of food, fuel and other aid.

The temporary pier is part of the Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore capability. The U.S. military finished installing the floating pier on Thursday, with officials poised to begin ferrying badly needed humanitarian aid into the enclave besieged over seven months of intense fighting in the Israel-Hamas war.
The recently installed Trident Pier on the Gaza coast on Thursday.U.S. Central Command via AP

The Rafah crossing, the main entry point for aid into Gaza, has been shut for nearly two weeks after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of the crossing as part of a ground assault that has seen them push deeper into eastern Rafah and force hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to evacuate the city Israel once deemed a “safe zone.”

The nearby Kerem Shalom crossing — where four Israeli soldiers were killed in a recent Hamas attack — was also closed, but the Israel Defense Forces said it has since opened, along with a separate entry point, the “Western Erez” crossing.

The Biden administration has expressed growing frustration over the humanitarian conditions in Gaza and in particular with Israel’s operations in Rafah, warning it will suspend the shipment of certain arms if the U.S. ally moves ahead with a full-scale invasion of the city without a plan to ensure the safety of civilians.

The IDF said Friday that troops continued to operate across “several locations” in Rafah, saying they had dismantled a launch site containing long-range rocket launchers in the city’s east.

It also noted continued fighting in northern Gaza, where thousands of people have been internally displaced amid renewed combat in areas the IDF previously said it had cleared. The IDF said troops had “expanded combat zones and intensified operational control” in the area of the Jabalia refugee camp, where it has been battling regrouped Hamas militants.

As the fighting continues, humanitarian groups have sounded the alarm over the limited flow of aid into Gaza in recent days.

The United Nations thanked the U.S. for its efforts on Thursday, but also warned that the flow of aid into Gaza could not be dependent on the temporary pier.

Speaking at a daily news briefing, U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said that land routes remain the most efficient way to transport aid into Gaza, “which is why we need all crossing points to be opened,” and appeared to express concerns over the safety of humanitarian workers transferring and distributing aid using the new pier.

State Department spokesman Vedant Patel emphasized in a news briefing Thursday that the U.S. pier was meant to be “additive to the other routes” facilitating the entry of aid into Gaza.

“Although this is a new mechanism of assistance for Gaza, more, of course, must be done,” he said. “Humanitarian conditions on the ground continue to deteriorate, and vital border crossings have closed at a time when moving more aid is critical.”

Vedant said the U.S. would continue to push Israel and other partners in the region to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and to ensure “aid can get to the places that it needs to go.”

Israel has laid blame for delays reopening the Rafah crossing on Egypt, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling CNBC’s Sara Eisen in an interview on Wednesday, “we want to see it open.” Egypt has said Israel is squarely to blame for keeping the crossing closed since its takeover of the Palestinian side.

The construction of the U.S. pier comes as the U.N.’s aid chief warned that famine had become an immediate risk in Gaza as food dwindled in the enclave.

“Stocks of food which were in place already in southern Gaza are running out. I think we’re talking about almost none left,” Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told Reuters in an interview in Geneva.

Vedant said Thursday that the U.S. was “deeply concerned about the reports indicating worsening conditions and imminent famine in Gaza.”

“Israel needs to do more to urgently provide sustained and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance to enter both northern and southern Gaza,” he said.

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