Aid trucks begin moving ashore via Gaza pier, US says

Members of the US Army, US Navy and the Israeli military put in place the Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver humanitarian aid, on the Gaza coast. (REUTERS)
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Updated 17 May 2024
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Aid trucks begin moving ashore via Gaza pier, US says

  • No American troops went ashore in the operation
  • The shipment is first in operation that American military officials anticipate could scale up to 150 truckloads a day entering Gaza

WASHINGTON: Trucks carrying badly needed aid for the Gaza Strip rolled across a newly built US floating pier into the besieged enclave for the first time Friday as Israeli restrictions on border crossings and heavy fighting hinder food and other supplies reaching people there.

The US military’s Central Command acknowledged the aid movement in a statement Friday, saying the first aid crossed into Gaza at 9 a.m. It said no American troops went ashore in the operation.
“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, and will involve aid commodities donated by a number of countries and humanitarian organizations,” the command said.
The shipment is the first in an operation that American military officials anticipate could scale up to 150 truckloads a day entering the Gaza Strip as Israel presses in on the southern city of Rafah as its 7-month offensive against Gaza.
But the US and aid groups also warn that the pier project is not considered a substitute for land deliveries that could bring in all the food, water and fuel needed in Gaza. Before the war, more than 500 truckloads entered Gaza on an average day.
The operation’s success also remains tenuous due to the risk of militant attack, logistical hurdles and a growing shortage of fuel for the trucks to run due to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7. Israel’s offensive since then has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, local health officials say, while hundreds more have been killed in the West Bank.
Troops finished installing the floating pier on Thursday. Hours later, the Pentagon said that humanitarian aid would soon begin flowing and that no backups were expected in the distribution process, which is being coordinated by the United Nations.
The UN, however, said fuel deliveries brought through land routes have all but stopped and this will make it extremely difficult to bring the aid to Gaza’s people.
“We desperately need fuel,” UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said. “It doesn’t matter how the aid comes, whether it’s by sea or whether by land, without fuel, aid won’t get to the people.”
Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said the issue of fuel deliveries comes up in all US conversations with the Israelis. She also said the plan is to begin slowly with the sea route and ramp up the truck deliveries over time as they work the kinks out of the system.
Aid agencies say they are running out of food in southern Gaza and fuel is dwindling, while the US Agency for International Development and the World Food Program say famine has taken hold in Gaza’s north.
Israel asserts it places no limits on the entry of humanitarian aid and blames the UN for delays in distributing goods entering Gaza. The UN says fighting, Israeli fire and chaotic security conditions have hindered delivery.
Under pressure from the US, Israel has in recent weeks opened a pair of crossings to deliver aid into hard-hit northern Gaza and said that a series of Hamas attacks on the main crossing, Kerem Shalom, have disrupted the flow of goods. There’s also been violent protests by Israelis disrupting aid shipments.
US President Joe Biden ordered the pier project, expected to cost $320 million. The boatloads of aid will be deposited at a port facility built by the Israelis just southwest of Gaza City and then distributed by aid groups.
US officials said the initial shipment totaled as much as 500 tons of aid. The US has closely coordinated with Israel on how to protect the ships and personnel working on the beach.
But there are still questions on how aid groups will safely operate in Gaza to distribute food, said Sonali Korde, assistant to the administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, which is helping with logistics.
“There is a very insecure operating environment” and aid groups are still struggling to get clearance for their planned movements in Gaza, Korde said.
The fear follows an Israeli strike last month that killed seven relief workers from World Central Kitchen whose trip had been coordinated with Israeli officials and the deaths of other aid personnel during the war.
Pentagon officials have made it clear that security conditions will be monitored closely and could prompt a shutdown of the maritime route, even just temporarily. Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, a deputy commander at the US military’s Central Command, told reporters Thursday that “we are confident in the ability of this security arrangement to protect those involved.”
Already, the site has been targeted by mortar fire during its construction, and Hamas has threatened to target any foreign forces who “occupy” the Gaza Strip.
Biden has made it clear that there will be no US forces on the ground in Gaza, so third-country contractors will drive the trucks onto the shore. Cooper said “the United Nations will receive the aid and coordinate its distribution into Gaza.”
The World Food Program will be the UN agency handling the aid, officials said.
Israeli forces are in charge of security on shore, but there are also two US Navy warships nearby that can protect US troops and others.
The aid for the sea route is collected and inspected in Cyprus, then loaded onto ships and taken about 200 miles (320 kilometers) to a large floating pier built by the US off the Gaza coast. There, the pallets are transferred onto the trucks that then drive onto the Army boats. Once the trucks drop off the aid on shore, they immediately turn around the return to the boats.


Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war

Updated 4 sec ago
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Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war

  • Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has killed at least 37,337 people so far

TEHRAN: Iran’s Acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani has called for joint action on the part of Islamic countries to pressure Israel into ending its brutal military activities in Gaza, which have devastated most of the enclave and killed thousands of Palestinians there.

Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has killed at least 37,337 people, mostly civilian women and children, since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Humanitarian supplies for millions of Palestinians displaced by the conflict have been squeezed despite the Israeli military declaring it would “pause” fighting daily around a southern route to facilitate aid flows.

The Iranian official also spoke with his Afghan counterpart Amir Khan Muttaqi via telephone on Sunday, with the two discussing bilateral relations as well as the situation in war-ravaged Gaza.

Kani reiterated Iran’s readiness to help Kabul resolve its challenges and achieve growth, Iran’s news agency IRNA reported.


Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group

Updated 9 min 45 sec ago
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Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group

KUWAIT CITY: The Public Prosecution in Kuwait has ordered the detention of a citizen on charges of joining a group aimed at illegally undermining the country’s basic systems, state news agency KUNA reported on Sunday.

The individual is also accused of receiving training in making explosives and preparing poisons for illicit purposes, as well as planning to leave the country to fight with the group, though he was unable to do so.

The Public Prosecution interrogated the accused and presented him with the charges, according to a statement released on its official account on X. Investigation procedures are ongoing.


Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza

Updated 13 min 14 sec ago
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Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza

  • The Houthis declared that attacks on Israel-linked shipping will persist until Israel ends its war on Gaza and lifts the siege on Palestinian territories

SANAA: The Houthi militia’s army spokesman, Yahya Saree, announced on Sunday that an American destroyer and two Israel-linked ships were targeted in recent operations in the Red and Arabian seas.

Saree said that the US destroyer was hit by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea, while the two ships — Captain Paris and Happy Condor — were targeted in the Arabian Sea using naval missiles and drones, respectively.

He stated that these ships were targeted because they were en route to ports in Israeli-occupied territories.

Saree reaffirmed Yemen’s stance, declaring that attacks on Israel-linked shipping will persist until Israel ends its war on Gaza and lifts the siege on Palestinian territories.

He also emphasized that the Yemeni army would continue to defend its territory against US-UK “aggression,” referring to joint airstrikes by the two Western nations, which the latter claim were launched to protect international shipping.

The Houthis have rejected these claims, asserting that their military operations in international waters, ongoing since mid-November, only target Israeli ships or vessels heading to Israeli-occupied ports.


Lull in Gaza fighting as Biden urges truce in Eid message

Updated 20 min 37 sec ago
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Lull in Gaza fighting as Biden urges truce in Eid message

  • In a holiday message late Sunday, US President Joe Biden called for the implementation of a ceasefire plan he outlined last month

GAZA: Israel struck Gaza on Monday and witnesses reported blasts in the besieged territory’s south, but fighting has largely subsided after a day of relative calm and as Muslims marked Eid Al-Adha.
In a holiday message late Sunday, US President Joe Biden called for the implementation of a ceasefire plan he outlined last month, saying it was “the best way to end the violence in Gaza” and to help civilians suffering “the horrors of the war between Hamas and Israel.”
A daytime “pause” for aid deliveries announced at the weekend by Israel’s military around a southern Gaza route appeared to be holding, while elsewhere in the Palestinian territory an AFP correspondent said strikes and shelling have decreased.
In Gaza City, medics at Al-Ahli hospital said at least five people were killed in two separate air strikes, and witnesses reported tank shelling in the southern neighborhood of Zeitun.
At least one strike hit Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, residents said.
Palestinian officials in the far-southern city of Rafah reported tank shelling early on Monday, before the start of the daily “local, tactical pause of military activity” announced by the army.
It said the pause “for humanitarian purposes will take place from 8:00 am (0500 GMT) until 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) every day until further notice along the road that leads from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Salah Al-Din road and then northwards.”
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP “there was no change” in the military’s policy and stressed fighting “continues as planned.”
An army spokeperson told AFP the pause was in effect on Monday, and the military in a statement said troops were still operating in Rafah and central Gaza, reporting “close-quarters combat” that killed several militants.
Witnesses told AFP they could hear blasts in Rafah’s city center and west on Monday morning.


A map released by the army showed the declared humanitarian route extending up to Rafah’s European Hospital, about 10 kilometers (six miles) from Kerem Shalom.
Mahmud Basal, spokesman for the civil defense agency in the Hamas-ruled territory, said that apart from the deadly Gaza City strikes overnight, “the other areas of the Gaza Strip are somewhat calm.”
He reported military movements and gunfire in parts of Rafah as well as Bureij camp in central Gaza.
On Sunday, the first day of Eid Al-Adha, or the feast of the sacrifice, the spokesman said “calm has prevailed across all of Gaza.”
The United Nations has welcomed the Israeli announcement of the pause, although “this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need,” said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.
He called for “further concrete measures by Israel to address longstanding issues” on humanitarian needs.
Gazans “urgently need food, water, sanitation, shelter, and health care, with many living near piles of solid waste, heightening health risks,” Laerke said.
Dire shortages of food and other essentials in the Gaza Strip have been exacerbated by overland access restrictions and the closure of the key Rafah crossing with Egypt since Israeli forces seized its Palestinian side in early May.
The military said the pause was in effect as part of efforts to “increase the volumes of humanitarian aid” following discussions with the United Nations and other organizations.
It was announced a day after eight Israeli soldiers were killed in a blast near Rafah and three more troops died elsewhere, in one of the heaviest losses for the army in more than eight months of war against Hamas militants.


The war was triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at wiping out Hamas has killed at least 37,337 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.
Egyptian, Qatari and US mediators have been pushing for a new Gaza truce, so far without success.
Washington has been pressing Israel and Hamas to formally accept Biden’s truce plan, which would allow an initial six-week pause to fighting.
“I strongly believe that the three-phase ceasefire proposal Israel has made to Hamas and that the UN Security Council has endorsed is the best way to end the violence in Gaza and ultimately end the war,” the US president said.
The only previous truce lasted one week in November and saw many hostages released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, while increased aid flowed into Gaza.
Hamas has insisted on the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and a permanent ceasefire — demands Israel has repeatedly rejected.


Netanyahu disbands his inner war cabinet, Israeli official says

Updated 26 min 26 sec ago
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Netanyahu disbands his inner war cabinet, Israeli official says

  • The prime minister had faced demands from the nationalist-religious partners in his coalition

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved the six-member war cabinet, an Israeli official said on Monday, in a widely expected move that came after the departure from government of the centrist former general Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu is now expected to hold consultations about the Gaza war with a small group of ministers, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer who had been in the war cabinet.
The prime minister had faced demands from the nationalist-religious partners in his coalition, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, to be included in the war cabinet, a move which would have intensified strains with international partners including the United States.
The forum was formed after Gantz joined Netanyahu in a national unity government at the start of the war in October and also included Gantz’s partner Gadi Eisenkot and Aryeh Deri, head of the religious party Shas, as observers.
Gantz and Eisenkot both left the government last week, over what they said was Netanyahu’s failure to form a strategy for the Gaza war.