Gazans criticise US aid pier as humanitarian crisis worsens

The expensive project, of which many Gaza residents are profoundly suspicious, has been beset by delays

The road to Rafah. Israeli forces are stepping up operations in the densely populated city in southern Gaza. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

Gaza's residents are coming to terms with another blow to the international campaign to get more humanitarian aid in, as vital land crossings remain closed and parts of a US-built pier designed to offload supplies sank.

The news comes as aid agencies warn of a new round of obstacles to getting critical humanitarian aid into the strip, where Israeli forces are days into an operation in the southern city of Rafah that has led to a large civilian death toll.

Sections of the $320 million pier, one of the points at which aid can enter Gaza, were battered by rough seas and bad weather at the weekend.

The pier will be sent to the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, where US Central Command will spend a week repairing it, a Pentagon representative said.

Many in Gaza have been sceptical about the pier’s efficacy.

“If the purpose of the pier is to deliver aid for people, why do we still not see any of these supplies?” Nader Abed Al Raheem, a resident, said on Wednesday.

The damage caused by the weather is the latest setback for the costly pier, which has been operating for only two weeks and has already led to injuries for three US service members.

On land, the two main crossings in southern Gaza – Rafah from Egypt and Kerem Shalom from Israel – have either been barely operating or largely inaccessible because of nearby fighting.

“Aid hasn't entered the Gaza Strip for more than 20 days because Israeli forces control the Rafah border and refuse to allow aid into Gaza,” Ismael Thawabta, director of the media office in Gaza told The National on Wednesday.

“About 250,000 family providers have lost their jobs and sources of income – these families are now relying on aid. Preventing the entry of aid to Gaza threatens starvation, which is a clear crime against humanity and a violation of international law.”

Some residents believe the pier is a way to distract international attention from another solution to the humanitarian crisis: Israel opening more land crossings.

“Working on the pier on Gaza's shore while Israeli forces control the borders of Gaza only serves to empower the occupation and isolate Gaza from the world,” said Tarek Hamoda, another resident.

“If they truly care about us, they need to stop this war and allow the borders of Gaza to be under Palestinian control.

“America can put pressure on Israel to relinquish control of Gaza's borders, but it shares the same interest in keeping Gaza isolated under the guise of helping people.”

Suspicions are also mounting among Gazans that restrictions on aid are part of a campaign to depopulate the strip.

A number of civilians The National spoke to on Wednesday said they believe the US pier, in particular, is designed to permanently remove Gaza's residents.

“The real reason for the pier is obvious: to make an American military base in Gaza and to get the citizens to leave,” Mr Al Raheem said.

“The purpose of the pier is to encourage people in Gaza to leave. [Israel] will push them to the point where they choose to leave of their own accord,” Hossam Moghrabi, resident, told The National.

"I've recently noticed that a significant number of young people won't hesitate to leave Gaza if given the chance after the current situation.

"Everything has destroyed their hopes and dreams. I can’t blame them because they have the right to live their lives peacefully, and they should have their future ahead of them. I hope the American purpose fails and the youth of Gaza are strong enough to reject such attempts.”

Israel's military said it is continuing its "efforts this week to facilitate the entry of hundreds of trucks containing food, water, medical and shelter equipment for the residents of Gaza".

Updated: May 29, 2024, 1:45 PM