close
close
Israel-Gaza: US pier operational again; Netanyahu criticizes US military aid
Israel-Gaza: US pier operational again; Netanyahu criticizes US military aid

A controversial U.S.-built floating pier that had been plagued by problems is back in operation and has delivered 656 tons of badly needed aid to Gaza, U.S. Central Command said Thursday.But the restoration has done little to answer questions about the ultimate effectiveness of the multimillion-dollar project or whether it will continue at all.

The Centcom statement said it was “the largest single-day delivery of aid to date” – the equivalent of about 38 truckloads. Aid agencies estimate that the battered Gaza Strip needs hundreds of truckloads a day to supply the more than 2 million trapped people. The Pentagon had originally said it would deliver up to 1,700 tons a day through the pier.


Pier built by World

Central kitchen

Source: Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

SAMUEL GRANADOS / THE WASHINGTON POST

Pier built by World

Central kitchen

Source: Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

SAMUEL GRANADOS / THE WASHINGTON POST

Pier built by World

Central kitchen

Source: Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

SAMUEL GRANADOS / THE WASHINGTON POST

Pier built by World

Central kitchen

Source: Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

SAMUEL GRANADOS / THE WASHINGTON POST

The pier, which Centcom says has delivered 4,160 tons of humanitarian aid so far, is part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to get food and other life-saving supplies to starving Gaza residents as the humanitarian situation worsens and the enclave remains largely sealed off. However, according to previous assessments in military journals, the pier is difficult to use when waves exceed 2 to 3 feet in height.

Critics argue that instead of building the pier, the government could have gotten aid to Gaza more quickly and cheaply by pressuring the Israeli government to ease restrictions on land-based aid deliveries. Georgios Petropoulos, head of the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination in Gaza, told the Washington Post that the pier operation was “a failure.”

GETTING CAUGHT

Stories to keep you up to date

“Let’s be honest. It’s a lot of noise about nothing. It’s distracted us for three months,” he said, adding that it does not yet serve the interests of the people of Gaza.

President Biden first announced the floating pier in his State of the Union address in March, and construction was completed in May. The project cost an estimated $230 million.

In late May, the pier was torn apart by bad weather, causing an estimated $22 million in damage and halting operations for several days while repairs were carried out. Earlier this month, it was again partially dismantled and towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod to avoid predicted bad weather and “ensure the structural integrity of the pier and the safety of our soldiers,” Centcom said.

The U.S. pier in Gaza, announced by President Biden in March to deliver aid to Palestinians, has faced a series of delays, security concerns and bad weather. (Video: Joe Snell/The Washington Post)

Another problem is the suspension of work by the United Nations World Food Programme, which is partly responsible for distributing aid delivered from the pier, after an Israeli hostage rescue operation on June 8 freed four hostages and killed more than 250 Palestinians. The WFP is expected to resume its work pending a review “to ensure that safe conditions for humanitarian work can be restored,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for delivering aid to Gaza, reported that 324 truckloads of aid had passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south. But aid agencies said that ongoing fighting in Gaza and increasing lawlessness among the desperate population were making it difficult to collect the aid.

Israel announced a daily pause in fighting earlier this week to facilitate the delivery of aid. But WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain said in an interview with Al-Monitor on Thursday that it made little difference. “We couldn’t get in,” she said. “We had to reroute some of our trucks. They were looted. As you know, we were shot at and rocketed. As far as we can tell, there is no difference at all.”

The aid organization Doctors Without Borders said on Friday that it may have to “suspend or drastically reduce some of its medical activities in Gaza” because it has been unable to bring medical supplies into the Gaza Strip since late April due to Israel’s closure of the Rafah border crossing.

“We have six trucks carrying 37 tons of aid – the vast majority of which are essential medical items – waiting on the Egyptian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing since June 14, unable to reach Gaza where they are needed to save lives,” Guillemette Thomas, the group’s medical coordinator, said in a statement.

On the political stage, there appears to have been a war of words between the United States and Israel this week: Washington hit back after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the slow pace of US arms deliveries.

Netanyahu said in a social media video this week that it was “unimaginable that the (Biden) administration has withheld weapons and ammunition from Israel in recent months.”

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday he was unaware of the video and called it “bewildering” given the extent of U.S. military support for Israel. “It was as upsetting and disappointing to us as it was wrong,” he said. “There is no other country that has done more and will continue to do more than the United States to help Israel defend itself.”

Netanyahu called Kirby’s comments a personal attack and said he was “willing to accept personal attacks if that is what is necessary to ensure that Israel gets the weapons and ammunition it needs in its war for survival.”

Netanyahu said in an interview with Punchbowl News published Friday that he was “grateful” for the U.S. military aid but had tried to talk to the president to resolve what he said was a slowdown in arms deliveries. “I felt it was absolutely necessary to voice this after months of quiet talks failed to resolve the issue,” he added.

Armenia is the most recent country to recognize the State of Palestine. In a statement carried by local media on Friday, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said the country had “always advocated a peaceful and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue” and that a two-state solution was “the only way to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis can realize their legitimate aspirations.” Palestinian politicians welcomed the news, while the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had summoned the Armenian ambassador “for reprimand.”

On Friday, Israeli forces continued to advance into the city of Rafah. At the same time, the army is also conducting operations in the previously captured areas of Gaza City and Khan Younis. The army said it was engaged in close combat with Hamas militants and was conducting operations in the Rafah area. Earlier this week, Israel said it was close to achieving its objectives in southern Gaza City, which it said was Hamas’ last stronghold.

Israeli attacks on tent camps in Mawasi killed 25 people and injured 50. near Rafah, the Palestinian Health Ministry said on Friday. The tent camp housed displaced people from across the Gaza Strip. In a statement early Friday, the Israeli military described its operations near Rafah as “precise” and “intelligence-based.”

The Palestinian Health Ministry said rehabilitation work had begun at al-Shifa Hospital. after it was closed in March following raids by the Israeli military. Moatasem Salah, head of the Health Ministry’s emergency committee, told The Post the kidney department had been partially restored and its capacity had been increased from seven to 17 cases. “We have started renovating the outpatient clinics building so that it can serve as an emergency medical center,” Salah said. “However, we lack key facilities such as a laboratory, X-ray machines, an operating room and accommodation for patients.” In parallel, the nonprofit Patient’s Friends Association said it had rehabilitated a private hospital in Gaza City to treat children and plans to expand its capacity to treat maternity. There are no functioning hospitals in Rafah.

Since the beginning of the war, at least 37,431 people have been killed and 85,653 injured in Gazasaid the Gaza Health Ministry. It makes no distinction between civilians and fighters, but says that the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that around 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas attack on October 7, including more than 300 soldiers. Since the start of military operations in Gaza, 312 soldiers have been killed, it says.

Miriam Berger contributed to this report.

By Everly