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WASHINGTON: A controversial US effort to boost aid shipments to Gaza by building a temporary pier has faced repeated problems as bad weather damaged the structure and caused other interruptions to the arrival of much-needed aid.
The $230 million jetty project has delivered more than 4,100 metric tons (nine million pounds) of aid so far, but it was only operational for a limited time and fell short of President Joe Biden’s promise to allow for “massive growth.” in getting to Gaza “every day”.
The coastal area has been devastated by more than eight months of Israeli operations against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and the population of Gaza has been wiped out and is in desperate need of help.
“The Gaza pier is an unfortunate and extremely costly distraction from what is really needed and required by law,” said Michelle Strucke, director of the Humanitarian Agenda at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This means “safe and unhindered humanitarian access for humanitarian organizations to help the people of Gaza who are suffering from historic levels of deprivation,” he said.
U.S. forces have also waived air aid, but these jetty deliveries were “never intended to replace extensive, sustainable access to land crossings that have provided safe access for humanitarian workers to deliver aid,” Strucke said.
“Their pursuit has consumed policymakers’ time, energy and more than $200 million in taxpayer dollars.”
Biden announced in his State of the Union address in March that the US military would build the pier, and US troops began construction the following month, initially offshore.
But in a sign of trouble to come, high seas and wind forced construction to be moved to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
The pier was completed at the beginning of May, but due to weather conditions it was not safe to move it into place immediately, and it did not join the Gaza coast until the middle of the month.
Due to high seas, four US military ships supporting the mission broke loose from their berths on 25 May, sinking two, and the pier was damaged by bad weather three days later, requiring repairs and reconstruction of the pier in Ashdod.
It was reattached to shore on June 7, but aid shipments were soon halted for two days due to poor weather conditions.
The pier then had to be removed from the shore and transported to Ashdod on 14 June to protect it from the open sea. It was taken back to Gaza this week and aid shipments have now resumed.
Raphael Cohen, a senior political scientist at the research group RAND Corporation, said that “the efforts at the pier have not yet yielded the results that the Biden administration had hoped for.”
“Apart from the weather issues, it was quite expensive and did not solve the operational challenges of getting aid into Gaza,” he said.
Cohen said that despite the problems with the jetty, it provides another entry point for aid and allows aid to come in even when land crossings are closed — a persistent problem that has worsened the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
He said the effort could also help improve future deployments of the Army’s temporary pier capability, which was last used in an operation in Haiti more than a decade ago.
In addition to the weather, the project faces a serious challenge in terms of the distribution of aid arriving via the pier, which the UN World Food Program has stopped while assessing the security situation, the evaluation is still in progress.
The announcement comes after Israel launched a close-quarters operation earlier this month that freed four hostages but killed more than 270 people, according to health officials in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The UN has said it welcomes all efforts to bring in aid, but that land routes are the most important routes for aid to arrive.
Strucke emphasized that “the Gazans don’t need the appearance of help, they need actual help to reach them.”
Washington “must be very careful not to support actions that look good on paper to expand aid routes but do not result in aid actually reaching the Palestinians in need in large quantities,” he said.

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