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May 17, 2024, 4:47pm EDT
Middle East
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Semafor Signals

Land deliveries urgently needed in Gaza despite floating pier, aid groups say

Insights from NPR, Politico, and Reuters

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Members of the US Army, US Navy and the Israeli military put in place the temporary Trident Pier to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza on May 16, 2024.
US Central Command/Handout via REUTERS
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The News

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid drove across a US-built temporary floating pier into Gaza for the first time Friday, bringing badly needed food and other supplies to the war-ravaged enclave.

Heavy fighting and Israeli restrictions on border crossings have made it difficult to get aid to the Gaza Strip, where Israel’s offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, and shortages of food, medicine and other vital supplies are rife.

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Aid agencies have warned that the threat of famine looms in Gaza, especially as Israel continues to press deeper into Rafah, its southernmost city and a crucial delivery gateway.

American military officials said they hope to scale the pier operation up to 150 truckloads a day — still a sharp drop from the more than 500 truckloads of aid that entered the enclave on an average day before the war.

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Pier is no substitute for land deliveries, aid groups say

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Sources:  
NPR, Reuters, The Times of Israel

While welcoming the pier’s creation, the US and aid groups also warned that the project is not a substitute for land deliveries, which have fallen dramatically since the war began — and even more since Israel blocked the key Rafah crossing. Land deliveries are “in theory, the most efficient and cost-effective route” to get food and supplies to Gaza, The New York Times wrote, but strict Israeli restrictions and aid routes embroiled in fighting have necessitated alternate paths. That’s not sustainable, a UN spokesperson said: “To stave off the horrors of famine, we must use the fastest and most obvious route to reach the people of Gaza — and for that, we need access by land now.”

Once aid arrives, a lack of fuel is the larger issue

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Sources:  
Middle East Monitor, Politico, UN

The United Nations, which is coordinating aid distribution via the pier, said a key challenge is obtaining fuel needed for vehicles to dispense the aid around the territory. “Distribution is almost impossible with no regular fuel imports, unstable telecommunication and ongoing fighting,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Thursday.

“We desperately need fuel,” a UN spokesperson told Politico. “It doesn’t matter how the aid comes, whether it’s by sea or whether by land, without fuel, aid won’t get to the people.” The UN has previously described the use of fuel as a weapon of war as “appalling.”

Aid organizations amplify calls for ceasefire

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Sources:  
NPR, Reuters

“Unless the fighting stops, we can’t safely deliver aid at the level that is needed,” said the vice president of global policy and advocacy for Mercy Corps, a humanitarian organization. “We have been very clear that what’s really driving the humanitarian situation — it’s the siege.” Ceasefire talks between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have once again stalled after seeming to make progress earlier this month. White House national security spokesman John Kirby called the state of the talks “deeply regrettable,” but said the US still believes a ceasefire is possible.

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