U.S. resumes delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza via repaired pier

Badly needed aid has been delivered into Gaza from a newly repaired American-built pier, U.S. Central Command announced Saturday, following problems that had plagued the effort to bring supplies to Palestinians by sea.

The pier constructed by the American military was only operational for about a week before it was blown apart in high winds and heavy seas on May 25. The damaged section was reconnected to the beach in Gaza on Friday after undergoing repairs at an Israeli port.

About 1.1. million pounds of aid were delivered Saturday via the pier, CENTCOM said in a statement. According to the agency, a total of 3.5 million pounds of aid have been delivered since the pier had previously opened in mid-May.

U.S. aid pier
A view of the damaged floating pier constructed by the U.S. to facilitate quicker delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinians on May 27, 2024, off the coast of Gaza.  Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images

The delivery came the same day that Israel mounted a heavy air and ground assault on the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza that rescued four hostages who had been taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 assault that launched the war in Gaza. The Hamas-run government media office in Gaza said at least 210 Palestinians were killed during the raid, and more than 400 injured.

Video circulating online Saturday shows an Israel Defense Forces helicopter taking off from the beach with the U.S. pier in the backdrop. Two U.S. officials told CBS News that the U.S. pier was not used in the IDF operation. A U.S. official explained that the helicopter landed south of the facility on a beach but not within the cordoned area of the pier.

“The pier facility was not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza. An area south of the facility was used to safely return the hostages to Israel,” a U.S. official said. “Any such claim to the contrary is false.  The temporary pier on the coast of Gaza was put in place for one purpose only, to help get more urgently needed lifesaving assistance into Gaza.”

In a statement later Saturday, U.S. Central Command reiterated that “pier facility, including its equipment, personnel, and assets were not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza.”

The repair brings back online one way to get desperately needed food and other emergency supplies to Palestinians trapped by the eight-month-old Israel-Hamas war. Israeli restrictions on land crossings, and fighting, have greatly limited the flow of food and other vital supplies into the territory.

The damage to the pier was the latest stumbling block for the project and the persistent struggle to get food to starving Palestinians. Three U.S. service members were injured, one critically, and four vessels were beached due to heavy seas.

Early efforts to get aid from the pier into the Gaza Strip were disrupted as crowds overran a convoy of trucks that aid agencies were using to transport the food, stripping the cargo from many of them before they could reach a U.N. warehouse. Officials responded by altering the travel routes, and aid began reaching those in need.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters on Friday that the lessons learned from that initial week of operations made him confident greater amounts of aid could be delivered now.

He said the goal was to get to 1 million pounds of food and other supplies moving through the pier into Gaza every two days. Before the causeway broke apart in the storm, more than 2.4 million pounds of aid were delivered, Pentagon officials said.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is working with the U.N. World Food Program and their humanitarian partners working in Gaza to distribute food, high-nutrition emergency treatment for starving children, and other aid via the sea route.

Relief agencies have pressed Israel to reopen land routes that could bring in all the needed aid. Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks to enter through a southern checkpoint and pointed the finger at the U.N. for not distributing aid. The U.N. says it is often unable to retrieve the aid because of the security situation.

U.N. agencies have warned that over one million Palestinians in Gaza could experience the highest level of starvation by the middle of next month if hostilities continue.

President Biden’s administration has said from the start that the pier wasn’t meant to be a total solution and that any amount of aid helps.

Biden announced his plan for the U.S. military to build a pier during his State of the Union address in early March, and the military said it would take about 60 days to get it installed and operational. It took a bit longer than planned, with the first trucks carrying aid for the Gaza Strip rolling down the pier on May 17.

The initial cost was estimated at $320 million, but the Pentagon said this past week that the price had dropped to $230 million, due to contributions from Britain and because the cost of contracting trucks and other equipment was less than expected.

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