First aid from US pier in Gaza has reached starving Palestinians, the UN says

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.N. World Food Program said Wednesday that it has handed out in Gaza in recent days a “limited number” of high-energy biscuits that arrived from a U.S.-built pier, the first aid from the new humanitarian sea route to get into the hands of Palestinians in grave need.

The small number of biscuits came in the first shipments unloaded from the pier Friday, WFP spokesman Steve Taravella said. The U.S. Agency for International Development told The Associated Press that a total of 41 trucks loaded with aid from the more than $320 million pier have reached humanitarian organizations in Gaza.

“Aid is flowing” from the pier, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Wednesday in response to questions about the troubled launch of aid deliveries from the maritime project. “It is not flowing at a rate that any of us are happy with.”

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters Tuesday that he did not believe any of the aid from the pier had yet reached people in Gaza. Sullivan said a day later that some aid had been delivered “specifically to the Palestinians who need it.”

American officials hope the pier at maximum capacity can bring the equivalent of 150 truckloads of aid to Gaza each day. That's a fraction of the 600 truckloads of food, emergency nutritional treatments and other supplies that USAID says are needed each day to bring people in Gaza back from the start of famine and address the humanitarian crisis brought on by the seven-month-old Israel-Hamas war.

Israeli restrictions on land crossings and a surge in fighting have cut deliveries of food and fuel in Gaza to the lowest levels since the first months of the war, international officials say. Israel's takeover this month of the Rafah border crossing, a key transit point for fuel and supplies for Gaza, has contributed to bringing aid operations near collapse, the U.N. and relief groups say.

All 2.3 million people of Gaza are struggling to get food, according to aid groups, with the heads of the WFP and USAID having said famine has begun in north Gaza.

The U.S. pier project to bring aid to Gaza via the Mediterranean Sea has had a troubled launch, with groups of people overrunning a convoy Saturday and taking most of the supplies and a man in the crowd who was shot dead in still-unexplained circumstances.

Saturday's chaos forced suspension of aid convoys from the pier for two days. Shada Moghraby, the WFP's spokesperson at the U.N., said trucks carrying aid from the pier arrived at a U.N. warehouse Tuesday and Wednesday, but it wasn't clear how many.

The WFP had warned this week that the U.S. project could fail unless Israeli authorities gave clearances and cooperation for alternate land routes and better security.

Humanitarian officials and the U.S. say the sea route is not a replacement for bringing aid through land crossings, and they have repeatedly called on Israel to allow a steady large flow of trucks through entry points and to ensure aid workers are safe from the Israeli military.

Israel insists it puts no restriction on the number of trucks entering Gaza and has blamed “lack of logistical capabilities and manpower gaps” among aid groups. But Israel’s military operations make it very difficult for groups to retrieve the aid.

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AP writer Edith M. Lederer contributed from the United Nations.

05/22/2024 22:11 -0400

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