How the US Humanitarian Pier in Gaza Will Work

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A humanitarian pier that will bring the US military to the Gaza Strip is currently under construction and is expected to be ready to receive the first shipments of food and other aid early next month, military officials said. The effort to deliver aid to the enclave through a maritime corridor, announced in March, will involve an extensive, multi-step process.

A thousand U.S. soldiers and sailors will be involved in the pier project, a senior military official said Thursday in a Pentagon call with reporters. The pier will initially allow the transfer of about 90 truckloads of aid per day, the official said, and will eventually ramp up to 150 truckloads per day at full capacity.

U.S. authorities have said the pier is intended to complement, not replace, existing land aid deliveries. UN data shows that land deliveries have increased slightly in recent weeks but still fall far short of the enormous need in the enclave. Dozens of Gazans have died from causes related to malnutrition and dehydration, and the United Nations World Food Program has said that half of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million people is starving.

Once the aid reaches shores, the aid agencies that will distribute it within Gaza will face familiar dangers and obstacles amid the continued Israeli bombardment.

1

Aid, especially food, will be obtained from countries around the world.

The majority of the aid will consist of food collected from various countries and transported to the port of Larnaca in Cyprus.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which works closely with the military to coordinate plans for the pier, said nutrient-rich food bars from Dubai would come through the maritime corridor, among other things; foods intended to treat severe malnutrition in children, originating from Kenya; and relief supplies, including hygiene packages, from Europe.

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Military officials have said other countries and organizations will also contribute food and money.

2

Shipments will be inspected in Cyprus under Israeli supervision.

Israeli representatives will be present at the port of Larnaca as Cypriot authorities inspect items, an Israeli official with knowledge of the inspection plans said.

The official said the standards for inspection would be the same as those at the border crossings into Gaza. Emergency officials have said these inspections are exhaustive and sometimes arbitrary.

World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit disaster relief organization, previously tested the maritime corridor on a smaller scale twice in March. According to Juan Camilo Jimenez Garces, regional manager of the organization, the loading, scanning and inspection process for these two ships took between two and three days each. The first ship, a partnership with Spanish non-profit organization Open Arms, carried around 200 tonnes of relief supplies, while the second carried more than 300 tonnes.

3

The sea journey takes at least 15 hours.

The approximately 400 kilometer journey from Cyprus to Gaza normally takes about 15 hours, or a full travel day, but can take up to a few days depending on the weight of the cargo and the type of ship. For example, the Open Arms ship, which towed its cargo on a separate platform rather than carrying it on board, made the journey in about three days.

Ships can also be delayed due to unfavorable weather conditions. That was a factor that held up the second World Central Kitchen ship, Jennifer, in Larnaca for about two weeks after it was scheduled to depart.

4

Aid will be transported from a floating platform near Gaza to a pier anchored for landing.

Gaza has no international seaport; Israel prevented its construction for decades. Because the waters near the coast are too shallow for large ships to approach the humanitarian pier directly, the United States is also building a floating platform two miles offshore, where ships carrying relief supplies will first unload their cargo.

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Smaller army vessels, known as LCUs (for ‘landing craft utility’) and LSVs (for ‘logistics support vessels’), will transport the aid from the platform to the pier in batches.

Please note: distances are not to scale.

The New York Times

According to a military official, at least 14 U.S. ships are involved in the construction and operation of the pier, some of which carry the necessary heavy machinery and equipment. US military personnel will build the pier at sea, using modular units 8 feet wide and 20 to 40 feet long, and a long ferry will tow it to shore. It will then be anchored to the coast in northern Gaza by Israeli forces to ensure no American boots are on the ground.

Humanitarian officials involved in receiving and distributing the aid have urged to keep their involvement with the Israeli military as limited as possible.

5

Aid will have to be trucked to Gaza, but safe distribution remains a challenge.

The World Food Program will help distribute aid in Gaza after it arrives at the pier, the US Agency for International Development said last week.

Trucks coordinated by aid groups will transport aid from a secured area near the pier to UN warehouses, of which there are more than 20 across Gaza, and then ultimately to hundreds of community kitchens, shelters, smaller warehouses and other distribution points across the region.

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The majority of distribution points are in southern Gaza, where most of the population has been forced to evacuate, but demographers estimate that several hundred thousand people remain in the northern part of the enclave, where famine threatens.

There are a small number of routes available for the distribution trucks, as the Israeli army has limited road access and Israeli airstrikes have reduced much of the landscape to rubble. As usual, the convoys will have to closely coordinate their movements with the Israeli army.

Humanitarian road access in Gaza

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Note: Road accessibility based on a map released by OCHA on April 24.

The New York Times

Aid officials have emphasized that the most efficient method of bringing aid into Gaza remains via land routes, and they have expressed concerns that the pier could distract from efforts to increase the amount of aid delivered by land.

Several previous attempts to provide aid to Gazans have ended in deadly tragedy. This month, Israel attacked a World Central Kitchen convoy, killing seven of the group’s aid workers. Israel also bombed an aid warehouse at least once, an attack it said was aimed at killing a Hamas commander.

Aid experts say the hunger crisis in Gaza is man-made, citing Israel’s decades-long blockade of the territory and backed by Egypt, Israel’s near-total siege after October 7 and severe restrictions on aid truck access since then. The UN has said that Israel’s aid cuts, infrastructure destruction and displacement of Gazans could amount to the use of famine as a war tactic.

Israel has pulled out and its officials have blamed U.N. aid agencies for failing to distribute aid effectively. They have also said that Hamas, which rules Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization, is systematically seizing aid. David Satterfield, the US special envoy for humanitarian aid, said in February that Israel had presented no specific evidence of theft or misappropriation of UN-delivered aid.

In the meantime, the humanitarian crisis has become increasingly acute. Many Gazans have died searching for aid, including more than a hundred people who died trying to get food from an aid convoy, according to Gaza health officials, and more than a dozen who drowned while retrieving air-dropped aid thrown into the sea had fallen.

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