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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

USAID, US Defense Dep Discuss Establishing Floating Pier Nearby Gaza for Humanitarian Purposes


Fri 17 May 2024 | 10:36 PM
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Rana Atef

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of State’s London International Media Hub organized a briefing on the status of establishing a maritime corridor of humanitarian assistance into Gaza through the Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore capability, or JLOTS. The participated officials were Dan Dieckhaus, Response Director at the United States Agency for International Development, and Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Deputy Commander of the United States Central Command.

Dieckhaus initiated his talk by reviewing the humanitrian situation in Gaza, especially Rafah, saying: "the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains incredibly dire. Humanitarian conditions are deteriorating. Insecurity is escalating, particularly in Rafah, and civilians are suffering," asserting that "The United States continues working relentlessly to surge assistance through all available means to address the impacts of this crisis."

"The entire population of Gaza – around 2.2 million people – is facing acute food insecurity, meaning they require food assistance, and the threat of famine is looming. More than half of the population in northern Gaza is facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity, and nearly 30 percent of the children there are severely malnourished. In the south, in southern Gaza, nearly a quarter of the population is facing this type of food insecurity."

He also reviewed the needs of Gaza, describing: "To mitigate the effects of emerging famine, humanitarian organizations are working to surge lifesaving assistance, but food alone is not enough. We need nutritional treatment, clean water, support for healthcare workers to reach mothers and children to receive malnutrition treatment and prevent a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

This dire situation in Gaza is further complicated by what is happening in Rafah, which has forced approximately 450,000 people to flee since May 6th and risks compounding a humanitarian catastrophe. Humanitarian actors are facing significant challenges getting aid into Rafah given the closure of critical border crossings as well as accessing warehouses and distributing aid due to the deteriorating situation."

"We continue to be greatly concerned about further population displacement and its impacts on humanitarian needs due to the limited space and severe lack of sufficient infrastructure, including available water, in Rafah and in likely displacement sites to which people would flee," he highlighted.

On establishing a temporary floating pier, the USAID official expressed: "We have continued working to increase humanitarian aid deliveries through all avenues. So USAID is coordinating with the Department of Defense to establish a maritime corridor to augment – not replace, but to augment – ongoing efforts to scale the delivery of humanitarian aid by land. This maritime corridor includes the construction of a temporary pier in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza and directly into Gaza to assist humanitarian organizations to receive and deliver lifesaving assistance in an independent, neutral, and impartial manner. And I want to stress that aspect: That means that humanitarian organizations will determine who gets assistance, who is prioritized, who receives that assistance, and what that assistance actually is."

He added: "It’s critical that humanitarian workers are able to safely deliver and distribute lifesaving assistance from this maritime corridor, as it is from any entry point in Gaza and throughout Gaza. And we will continue to advocate for increased measures to provide greater assurances for those working to deliver aid to people in need at great personal risk.

Work on the pier is complete and the maritime corridor is expected to be operational in the coming days. Humanitarian commodities from the United States and other countries are currently arriving in Cyprus, where they are being screened for loading onto ships for delivery to Gaza via the maritime corridor where, again, humanitarian organizations will independently select and distribute that assistance to the final recipient."

The official concluded: "We continue working to ensure lifesaving assistance reaches civilians in need through all avenues, and we will continue to do everything we can to save lives and alleviate the suffering of those in greatest need. While we have seen – had seen some progress on increasing the amount of aid entering Gaza, more must be done now, and especially in light of recent setbacks. We have and will continue to press Israel to create the conditions to ensure the safety of humanitarian actors and activities as we call on all parties in this conflict to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian actors. And we will also press the Government of Israel to open additional land crossings, remove impediments to the delivery of humanitarian aid, and do far more to prevent the killing of humanitarian workers and innocent civilians."

On his side, Vice Admiral Cooper said: "The U.S. military’s only role in this effort is to provide our unique logistics capability to enable the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza by USAID and our international partners. International efforts are under way to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza through all available routes, including by land, by air, and now by sea. We are focused on flooding the zone with humanitarian assistance. This is the policy of our government."

He added: "We are pursuing multiple methods to deliver aid into Gaza from the air and from the sea. To date, the United States along with over a dozen partners has executed more than 38 humanitarian airdrop missions. These missions have focused on dropping humanitarian assistance from the air, predominantly into north Gaza. With our partners, we have cumulatively provided more than 3 million meals into Gaza by airdrops, more than 1 million of which have been from the United States. These airdrops are still continuing and we are fully committed to the successful delivery of aid from the sea as well."

Cooper said that the idea of establishment of the pier started in March when "the President of the United States directed establishment of a temporary pier for the delivery of aid into Gaza. We knew this would take about two months to come to fruition."

He added: "The pieces of this pier were loaded aboard ships on the East Coast of the United States and transported 11,000 kilometers, and then assembled off the coast of Gaza. In the coming days, we expect to affix the temporary pier to the Gaza shore and begin the delivery of aid."

After that Cooper highlighted a few key points, reviewing: "The first and foremost is: This pier is only being assembled to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. It has no other purpose. The pier is temporary in nature. The maritime route, as was mentioned, is additive, and is not meant to replace land routes into Gaza. I’d also like to mention this is an internationally backed effort coordinated with the United Nations. And then finally, there will be no U.S. military boots on the ground in Gaza."

Regarding the nature of the process of delivering the aid through the pier, he explained: "First, humanitarian assistance comes into Cyprus via air or sea, where it is screened, palletized, and prepared for delivery. Pallets of aid are then loaded into large commercial or military vessels that travel from Cyprus to a large floating platform that we have assembled and is anchored several kilometers off the coast of Gaza. The floating platform acts as a stable work space to transload pallets from the larger commercial ships onto smaller U.S. military vessels that can reach closer to shore. These smaller ships can carry between five and 15 trucks of aid each.

The smaller ships then shuttle these trucks with aid from the floating platform to a temporary pier – basically, a floating causeway that is several hundred meters long that is fixed to the beach in Gaza. So aid goes from the floating platform onto trucks, onto the small ships; the floating – then from the small ships onto the floating causeway; the trucks roll down the causeway onto land and commodities are dropped off on land. These trucks then repeat the process over and over in that same loop I just described.

And then separately, after commodities are ashore, the UN and World Food Program will receive the humanitarian aid for onward distribution inside Gaza. These are two separate processes.

What we can tell you now is the process works. Today, we have hundreds of tons of aid ready for delivery and thousands of tons of aid in the pipeline. These initial deliveries will contain aid from multiple partner nations. We are seeing significant volumes of aid flowing into Cyprus for further distribution and we expect this flow will continue as more international donors contribute."

He asserted: "The U.S. military is simply providing logistics support to enable international donors to flow their aid into Gaza from the sea. If I said this a different way, we’re simply enabling a shared service for the international community to serve the people of Gaza."

Furthermore, he adressed the matter of securing the humanitrian workers, saying: "This is our top priority. We take the security of our servicemembers and the humanitarian aid workers very seriously. As a point of emphasis, this a 100 percent humanitarian mission and any attack on those working on it, on this mission, is an attack on aid for the people of Gaza. We will continue to assess and reassess security to inform our operation every day."