US military starts building Gaza aid pier

US military starts building Gaza aid pier
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said indications are that the Gaza aid pier will be operational in early May, and 'everything is on course at this point'.
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Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder said the US military had started building 'the initial stages of the temporary pier and causeway at sea' [Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu/Getty-archive]

The US military has begun construction on a pier meant to boost deliveries of desperately needed aid to Gaza, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The small coastal territory has been devastated by more than six months of brutal Israeli bombardment and ground operations, leaving the civilian population in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.

"I can confirm that US military vessels… have begun to construct the initial stages of the temporary pier and causeway at sea," Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told journalists.

Indications are that the pier will be operational in early May, and "everything is on course at this point", he said.

Highlighting the dangers in Gaza, Ryder said that "some type of mortar attack" caused minimal damage near an onshore area that will eventually be a delivery site for aid.

The Israeli defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs alleged militants fired mortars on Wednesday at a humanitarian work site in northern Gaza during a visit by UN personnel, with no casualties reported.

A senior US military official told journalists that "we don't assess that the attack had anything to do with the [aid pier] mission or delivery of humanitarian assistance from the sea".

'Acute food insecurity'

The military official also outlined how the maritime aid delivery process will work, saying assistance will first come into Cyprus, where it will be screened and prepared for delivery.

Aid will then be loaded onto commercial vessels for transportation to a floating platform miles off the coast of Gaza.

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There, it will be transferred to smaller vessels that will take the assistance to a pier that is anchored to the shore.

Trucks will then drive the aid down the platform, where a distribution partner will take it into Gaza, the official said, noting that initial operating capacity will be 90 trucks of assistance per day, later rising to 150 trucks a day.

The senior military official reiterated that there will be no US "boots on the ground", saying an Israeli military unit will be responsible for anchoring the pier to the shore.

A senior US administration official said that the US Agency for International Development "will partner with UN organisations to deliver the life-saving aid once it gets to Gaza through the maritime corridor".

The official painted a dire picture of the situation in Gaza and the urgent need for aid, saying "the entire population of Gaza – 2.2 million people – is facing acute food insecurity."

"More than half of the population in northern Gaza is facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity," while "in southern Gaza, nearly a quarter of the population is facing this kind of catastrophic food insecurity," the official said.