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More Aid Getting to Gaza From Pier     05/24 06:21


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- A six-day-old U.S. pier project in Gaza is starting to 
get more aid to Palestinians in need but conditions are challenging, U.S. 
officials said Thursday. That reflects the larger problems bringing food and 
other supplies to starving people in the besieged territory.

   The floating pier had a troubled launch, with crowds overrunning some of the 
first trucks coming from the new U.S.-led sea route and taking its contents 
over the weekend. One man in the crowd was shot dead in still-unexplained 
circumstances. It led to a two-day suspension of aid distribution.

   The U.S. military worked with the U.N. and Israeli officials to select safer 
alternate routes for trucks coming from the pier, U.S. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper 
told reporters Thursday.

   As a result, the U.S. pier on Wednesday accounted for 27 of the 70 total 
trucks of aid that the U.N. was able to round up from all land and sea 
crossings into Gaza for distribution to civilians, the United States said.

   That's a fraction of the 150 truckloads of food, emergency nutrition 
treatment and other supplies that U.S. officials aim to bring in when the sea 
route is working at maximum capacity.

   Plus, Gaza needs 600 trucks entering each day, according to the U.S. Agency 
for International Development, to curb a famine that the heads of USAID and the 
U.N. World Food Program have said has begun in the north and to keep it from 
spreading south.

   Only one of the 54 trucks that came from the pier Tuesday and Wednesday 
encountered any security issues on their way to aid warehouses and distribution 
points, U.S. officials said. They called the issues "minor" but gave no details.

   A deepening Israeli offensive in the southern city of Rafah has made it 
impossible for aid shipments to get through the crossing there, which is a key 
source for fuel and food coming into Gaza. Israel says it is bringing aid in 
through another border crossing, Kerem Shalom, but humanitarian organizations 
say Israeli military operations make it difficult for them to retrieve the aid 
there for distribution.

   The Biden administration last week launched the $320 million floating pier 
for a new maritime aid route into Gaza as the seven-month-old Israel-Hamas war 
and Israeli restrictions on land crossings have severely limited food 
deliveries to 2.3 million Palestinians.

   For all humanitarian efforts, "the risks are manifold," Daniel Dieckhaus, 
USAID's response director for Gaza, said at a briefing with Cooper. "This is an 
active conflict with deteriorating conditions."

   Dieckhaus rejected charges from some aid groups that the pier is diverting 
attention from what the U.S., U.N. and relief workers say is the essential need 
for Israel to allow full access to land crossings for humanitarian shipments.

   For instance, Jeremy Konyndyk, a former USAID official now leading Refugees 
International, tweeted that "the pier is humanitarian theatre."

   "I would not call, within a couple of days, getting enough food and other 
supplies for tens of thousands of people for a month theater," Dieckhaus said 
Thursday when asked about the criticism.

   At maximum capacity, the pier would bring in enough food for 500,000 of 
Gaza's people. U.S. officials stressed the need for flow through open land 
crossings for the remaining 1.8 million.

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