Crowds Intercept Almost All Aid Sent Over US-Built Pier in Gaza

crowds intercept almost all aid sent over us-built pier in gaza

Displaced Palestinian children wait to collect free food at a street kitchen in a camp in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on May 17.

(Bloomberg) -- Crowds of desperate people in the Gaza Strip have intercepted almost all of the aid sent over a temporary pier built by the US military, officials said, forcing a temporary halt to deliveries and complicating an already dire humanitarian crisis.

In a briefing on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said that 569 metric tons of aid has been brought in via the pier, which cost about $320 million to build and operate, for delivery onward. But asked if any had made it through to aid groups for distribution, he responded, “As of today, I do not believe so.”

“We never said it was going to be easy,” Ryder added. He said the US and the United Nations were discussing other routes trucks carrying aid could take so that they made it to the right distribution points.

The last day trucks were able to cross from the floating dock to the warehouses was on May 18, World Food Program spokeswoman Shaza Moghraby said in an interview. It takes at least at day to process aid at the pier and there is very limited distribution in Rafah, a city where many displaced civilians have sheltered, and elsewhere, she added.

President Joe Biden ordered the construction of the pier as land crossings into the enclave remained constrained by fighting and pressure grew on his administration to do something about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. Much of the territory has been reduced to rubble since Israel began a campaign against Hamas militants over the Oct. 7 assault that killed 1,200 Israelis and led to around 250 being taken as hostages.

Crowds have stopped trucks trying to take aid from the pier to a distribution warehouse, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. While 10 trucks were able to take goods from the pier to a storage area on Friday, only five of 16 trucks that departed the dock on Saturday made it to the warehouse, with all the others being halted, he said.

“Crowds had stopped the trucks at various points along the way,” he said. “There was what I think I would refer to as self-distribution. These trucks were traveling through areas where there’d been no aid. I think people feared that they would never see aid. They grabbed what they could.”

The pier was never meant to fully replace assistance coming into Gaza via land crossings. But a fresh Israeli assault and clashes at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, one of the main land crossings where international aid was coming into Gaza, has further worsened the flow of humanitarian aid, while the situation remains dire after some eight months of war.

“There is no doubt that the people of Gaza — children, women, men — are experiencing an acute humanitarian crisis,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress in a budget hearing on Tuesday, pointing out that the fighting around Rafah and disruptions at the Kerem Shalom crossing risked making the situation in southern Gaza “even more egregious.”

The roughly 1,800-foot dock was forecast to be able to bring in an initial 90 truckloads of humanitarian aid into Gaza each day, the Pentagon has said. That amount could increase to about 150 truckloads of supplies per day once the pier is fully operational, the department said.

--With assistance from Augusta Saraiva and Courtney McBride.

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