US says Gaza humanitarian aid pier could take 60 days to be built


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The Pentagon has said it would take up to 60 days and “over 1,000 forces” to build a floating pier and causeway off the coast of Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid into the besieged territory.

US army and navy personnel would not set foot in Gaza during the construction, Pentagon spokesperson Major General Pat Ryder said on Friday, while outlining the elaborate logistical operation to send aid into an enclave occupied by Washington’s ally Israel.

The plan for the emergency aid corridor comes amid deepening frustration among Israel’s allies over its failure to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where easier land routes to supply assistance have been shut. In the enclave’s north, which is now under Israeli military control, about 300,000 civilians are on the brink of famine, the UN has warned.

The US forces would build the floating pier, which would receive aid deliveries from vessels loaded in Cyprus, Ryder said. Smaller ships would transport the aid from the pier on to a causeway attached to a beach in Gaza. The aid would then be taken into Gaza, but not by US troops.

The US would build the 1,800-foot pier and causeway at sea, before “propelling it into the shore”. The floating structures would eventually allow for the delivery of 2mn meals per day.

Ryder said the US was “co-ordinating with ally and partner nations, the UN and humanitarian NGOs and the way ahead for distribution of assistance into Gaza”.

“We anticipate that it’ll take over 1,000 US forces to participate in building this capability,” Ryder said. It will take “several weeks, likely up to 60 days, in order to deploy the forces and construct the causeway and the pier”.

Details of the complex, weeks-long pier construction effort came a day after US President Joe Biden urged Israel to do more to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza, which aid agencies say is in the grip of a humanitarian catastrophe amid worsening food shortages.

“Israel must do its part,” Biden said in his State of the Union speech to Congress on Thursday. “Israel must allow more aid into Gaza . . . humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip.” 

About 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its offensive in October, according to Palestinian authorities. The campaign is in retaliation for Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

The US has repeatedly urged Israel to do more to avoid civilian casualties, but has refused to make Israel’s conduct in the war a condition of more weapons supplies.

The new pier will be necessary because the Israel military bombed a port in Gaza City in the first week of its military assault on Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel has not reopened a land crossing at Kerem Shalom, in the enclave’s south, where hundreds of trucks with aid for Gaza have been waiting to enter.

Ryder said the US was continuing talks with Israel and other countries in the region about securing more aid for Gaza via land crossings that have been mostly closed since Israel began its assault on the enclave in October.

“We understand that [land] is the most viable way to get meals in,” Ryder said, but added that the US was not “waiting around” for truck crossings into the enclave to open. The US airdropped 11,500 meals into Gaza on Friday, taking the total tally of meals dropped to 124,000.

The EU said on Friday that a first ship would depart from Cyprus as soon as this weekend to test the maritime corridor. But European officials said its cargo would be limited in size, allowing for the aid to be unloaded without a full pier.

Additional reporting by Eleni Varvitsioti in Athens and Mehul Srivastava in Tel Aviv

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