New routes planned for halted Gaza aid from US-built pier

Palestinians rush trucks as they transport international humanitarian aid from the US-built Trident Pier near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on May 18, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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Updated 22 May 2024
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New routes planned for halted Gaza aid from US-built pier

  • The pier has been met with hope and skepticism by residents in Gaza
  • Not immediately clear how much of the 569 metric tonnes of aid was still waiting to be transported

UNITED NATIONS/WASHINGTON: The United Nations has planned new routes within the Gaza Strip to transport aid from a US-built floating pier after crowds of desperate Palstinians intercepted 11 trucks, causing a halt to deliveries that continued for a third day on Tuesday.

The temporary pier was anchored to a Gaza beach last Thursday as Israel comes under growing global pressure to allow more supplies into the besieged coastal enclave, where it is at war with Palestinian militants Hamas and a famine looms.

Operations began on Friday and 10 aid trucks were driven by UN contractors to a World Food Programme warehouse in Deir El Balah in Gaza. But on Saturday, only five trucks made it to the warehouse after 11 others were intercepted.

“Crowds had stopped the trucks at various points along the way. There was ... what I think I would refer to as self-distribution,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Tuesday.

“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,” he said.

Distribution was paused as the UN planned new routes and coordination of deliveries in a bid to prevent more aid being intercepted, said Abeer Etefa, a WFP spokesperson in Cairo.

“The missions were planned for today using the new routes to avoid the crowds,” she said. Dujarric later said there had been no transportation of aid from the pier since Saturday.

‘WAITING FOR AMERICAN AID’

The pier has been met with hope and skepticism by residents in Gaza. The pier operation — announced by US President Joe Biden in March — is estimated to cost $320 million and involve 1,000 US service members.

“The pier should be there when the (Israeli) occupation completely ends. Then, it will be good for us. It will be good to travel, to get things,” said Abu Nadi Al-Haddad, questioning why it was needed now, given there were several land crossings.

Another resident, Abu Nasser Abu Khousa, came to the coastal road close to where the pier is located with his four-year-old son and a donkey-drawn cart in the hope of receiving aid.

“We are waiting for the American aid, but we did not get anything,” he said, adding that he had lost his home in the war and had been displaced multiple times. “We will come back tomorrow, God willing, in the hope that we will get some aid, that will help us survive.”

US officials have said that once up and running the pier would initially handle 90 trucks a day, but that number could go to 150 trucks. The UN has said at least 500 trucks a day are needed to enter Gaza.

Aid offloaded at the pier comes via a maritime corridor from Cyprus, where it is first inspected by Israel. Two ships carrying aid left Cyprus earlier this month and the Pentagon said more than 569 metric tons of aid had been delivered to Gaza.

“More is on the way, so you’re going to see those numbers increase,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters on Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear how much of the 569 metric tonnes of aid — which the Pentagon said had been donated by the US, Britain, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union — was still waiting to be transported by UN-contracted trucks.

Israel is retaliating against Hamas in Gaza — an enclave of 2.3 million people — over the Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian militants where more than 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. Nearly 130 hostages are believed to remain captive in Gaza.

Israel launched an air, ground and sea assault on the blockaded Palestinian territory, killing more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.

Aid access into southern Gaza has been disrupted since Israel stepped up military operations in Rafah, a move that the UN says has forced 900,000 people to flee.


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.