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WASHINGTON: A controversial U.S. effort to boost aid deliveries to Gaza by building a temporary pier has encountered recurring problems as bad weather damaged the structure and caused other interruptions in the arrival of desperately needed aid.
So far, the $230 million pier project has delivered more than 4,100 tonnes (nine million pounds) of aid, but it has only operated for limited periods, falling short of President Joe Biden’s promise to enable a “massive surge” in outreach aid to Gaza “every day”.
The coastal territory has been devastated by more than eight months of Israeli operations against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which have uprooted Gaza’s population and left them in dire need of aid.
“The Gaza Pier has unfortunately proven to be an extremely costly distraction from what is really needed and required by law,” said Michelle Strucke, Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Humanitarian Agenda.
This means “safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to the people of Gaza, who are suffering from historic levels of poverty,” she said.
U.S. forces also withdrew aid by air, but that and deliveries through the pier “were never intended to replace scaled, sustainable access to land crossings that provided safe access for humanitarian workers to provide assistance,” Strucke said.
“Prosecuting them took policymakers time, energy and more than $200 million of American taxpayer dollars.”
During his State of the Union address in March, Biden announced that the U.S. military would build the pier, and U.S. troops began construction on it the following month, initially working offshore.
However, in a sign of problems to come, high seas and winds required construction to be moved to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
The pier was completed in early May, but weather conditions made it unsafe to move it immediately into place, so the pier was not connected to the Gaza coast until mid-month.
High seas caused four U.S. Army ships supporting the mission to break free from their moorings on May 25, forcing two of them ashore, and three days later the pier was damaged by bad weather, requiring repairs and rebuilding of sections in Ashdod.
It was reconnected to the coast on June 7, but aid deliveries were soon interrupted for two days due to poor weather conditions.
The pier then had to be removed from the shore and moved to Ashdod on June 14 to protect it from the high seas. He returned to Gaza this week and aid deliveries have now resumed.
Raphael Cohen, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation research group, said that “the pier efforts have not yet produced the results the Biden administration had hoped for.”
“Apart from the weather issues, it was quite costly and did not solve the operational problems of getting aid to Gaza,” he said.
Cohen said that despite the pier’s problems, it provides another entry point for aid and allows it to be delivered even when land crossings are closed, a persistent problem that has worsened the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.
He said the effort could also help streamline the future deployment of a temporary military pier that was last used operationally more than a decade ago in Haiti.
In addition to weather conditions, the project faces significant challenges in the distribution of aid arriving through the pier, which the UN World Food Program has decided to put on hold while it assesses the security situation – an assessment that is still ongoing.
The announcement came after Israel carried out a nearby operation this month that freed four hostages but killed more than 270 people in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, according to health officials.
The UN said it welcomes all efforts to deliver aid, but the most important routes for aid to arrive are by land.
Strucke stressed that “What Gazans need is not the appearance of help – they need real help to reach them.”
Washington “should be very careful not to support actions that may look good on paper and expand aid delivery routes but do not result in aid actually reaching Palestinians in need on a large scale,” she said.

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