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UN food agency warns that the new US sea route for Gaza aid may fail unless conditions improve

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER and SAM MAGDY, Associated Press
Published: May 21, 2024, 12:41pm
3 Photos
This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an evacuated camp in Rafah, Gaza, May 8, 2024.
This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows an evacuated camp in Rafah, Gaza, May 8, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP) Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.N. World Food Program said Tuesday the new U.S. $320 million pier project for delivering aid to Gaza may fail unless Israel starts providing the conditions the humanitarian groups need to operate safely, after a chaotic launch ended with much of the aid looted and one Palestinian man dead.

Deliveries from the pier were stopped Sunday after Saturday’s aid convoy was unable to reach warehouses within Gaza as intended, the WFP said. The first 10 trucks had entered through the pier on Friday.

The U.N. agency is now reevaluating logistics and security measures and looking for alternate routes within Gaza, said spokesperson Abeer Etefa. The WFP is working with the U.S. Agency for International Development to coordinate delivery of food from the new U.S. route.

None of the 11 aid trucks that left the newly installed dock on a Gaza beach made it to a warehouse as intended Saturday, another WFP spokesperson, Steve Taravella, told The Associated Press. He said they were commandeered by what became a crowd of people gathered nearby.

“Without sufficient supplies entering Gaza, these issues will continue to surface. Community acceptance and trust that this is not a one-off event are essential for this operation’s success,” Taravella said in an email. “We have raised this issue with the relevant parties and reiterated our request for alternative roads to facilitate aid delivery. Unless we receive the necessary clearance and coordination to use additional routes, this operation may not be successful.”

The WFP also said Wednesday it has suspended food distribution in the southern Gaza city of Rafah due to a supply lack and insecurity.

President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. military’s construction of the pier and dock for deliveries of food, high-nutrition treatments and other vital supplies. Israeli restrictions on shipments of food and aid through land borders and overall fighting have put all 2.3 million residents of Gaza in a severe food crisis since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.

The U.S. and Israeli militaries oversaw the first shipments to the new U.S. pier.

Authorities have offered few firm details of what transpired Saturday. However, Associated Press video shows Israeli armored vehicles on a beach road, then aid trucks moving down the road. Civilians watching from the roadside gradually start to clamber on top of the aid trucks, throwing aid down to people below. Numbers of people then appear to overrun the aid trucks and their goods.

At one point, members of the crowd are shown carting a motionless man with a chest wound through the crowd. A local morgue later confirmed to the AP the man had been killed by a rifle shot. At another point, shots crackled, and some of the men in the crowd are shown apparently ducking behind aid boxes for cover.

It was not clear who fired the shots.

Asked about the shooting, the Israeli army told the AP, using the acronym for the Israel Defense Forces: “The IDF is currently focused on eliminating the threat from the terrorist organization Hamas.”

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