US denies Gaza aid pier was used in deadly hostage rescue operation

Israeli forces relied on heavy air strikes in a rescue operation in Gaza's densely-populated Nuseirat camp

The rescued hostages were taken to the Tel HaShomer Hospital in Tel Aviv. EPA
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The US denied on Sunday that a pier in the Mediterranean Sea set up by its military for aid deliveries was used in the evacuation of four Israeli hostages rescued from Gaza on Saturday.

Gaza health authorities said 274 people, mostly civilians, were killed during the hostage rescue operation under the cover of Israeli air attacks on the Nuseirat refugee camp, where the hostages were located. About 700 others were injured.

Israeli media said counterterrorism forces came under heavy fire after the rescue attempt, which led to the death of the Israeli commanding officer, and relied on air support as they fought their way to a helicopter landing zone.

The US statement comes after a video emerged on X, showing an Israeli Black Hawk helicopter close to the pier, picking up hostages and security forces before departing. The pier can be seen, along with an aid vehicle and military equipment, including a US counter-drone system.

“The humanitarian pier facility, including its equipment, personnel, and assets were not used in the operation to rescue hostages today in Gaza. An area south of the facility was used by the Israelis to safely return the hostages to Israel. Any such claim to the contrary is false,” said US Central Command, the US military headquarters in the Middle East.

“The temporary pier on the coast of Gaza was put in place for one purpose only, to help move additional, urgently needed life-saving assistance into Gaza.”

The attack on the Nuseirat camp has drawn international condemnation.

The United Arab Emirates denounced the "ongoing Israeli violations which has resulted in hundreds of deaths and injuries of innocent civilians".

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) reaffirmed the need for "an immediate ceasefire to prevent further loss of life," it said.

"The immediate priority is to preserve the lives of civilians, and ensure the immediate, safe, sustainable, and unhindered delivery of humanitarian, and relief aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," it added.

Turkey’s foreign ministry called the raid “a barbaric attack”.

“Israel has added a new one to the list of war crimes it has committed in Gaza,” it said.

Vice President of the EU comission Josep Borrell said: “Reports from Gaza of another massacre of civilians are appalling. We condemn this in the strongest terms. The bloodbath must end immediately."

More civilians were killed on Sunday morning during Israeli strikes on Al Bureij refugee camp and Rafah, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported, adding that Israel has intensified its attacks since Saturday's strikes.

Three people were killed in an attack on a home in Al Bureij, Wafa said, with two others killed in Rafah's Tal Al Sultan neighbourhood.

In northern Gaza, 50 malnourished children were admitted to a hospital in the space of a week, medical sources told Wafa.

As a result of fuel shortages, minimum medical services are being provided at Kamal Adwan Hospital in Jabilia refugee camp, where the children were admitted, Wafa reported, describing the situation in Gaza as “catastrophic”.

More than 37 children have starved to death in Gaza, 30 of whom received medical treated at Kamal Adwan.

On Saturday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US supported the release of all remaining Israeli hostages in Gaza – thought to be about 130, through “continuing negotiations or other means”.

Officials told CBS News on Saturday that the US had provided intelligence support for the hostage rescue.

On Sunday, the White House said it would continue to back talks to free the hostages, in exchange for a “ceasefire deal that is now on the table.” Such a deal would come with “security assurances for Israel and relief for the innocent civilians in Gaza”, and had wide international backing from the G7 and regional countries.

Mr Sullivan's statement a day after the US resumed aid deliveries from its temporary pier, the country's military said after the structure suffered storm damage and underwent repairs in a nearby port.

“Today at approximately 10.30am (Gaza time) US Central Command began delivery of humanitarian assistance ashore in Gaza. Today, a total of approximately 492 tonnes of much-needed humanitarian assistance was delivered to the people of Gaza,” Centcom said on X.

“No US military personnel went ashore in Gaza,” it added.

More than two million pounds of humanitarian aid were delivered on the pier last month, but it was damaged by high seas around a week after deliveries began.

The pier was repaired in the Israeli port of Ashdod before being brought back to the Gaza coast and re-established on Friday.

Israel has been accused of delaying the entry of aid into Gaza, depriving the territory's 2.4 million people of clean water, food, medicines and fuel.

Updated: June 09, 2024, 5:35 PM