Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophic’ food shortages, US says as aid pier is completed

Lorries carrying aid are expected to begin moving ashore within days

The temporary pier in place off the Gaza shore on Thursday. Photo: US Defence Department
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Food insecurity in northern Gaza has reached “catastrophic” levels and Israel’s closure of the Rafah border crossing in the south has further cut supplies at a critical time, a US official said on Thursday.

He was speaking as the Pentagon announced the completion of an emergency aid pier.

“Across Gaza, 2.2 million people – the entire population – are facing acute food insecurity,” said Sonali Korde, assistant to the administrator of USAid’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

"More than half of the population in the north is at catastrophic levels. In the past two weeks, we have seen a vital border crossing close and a supply decline at a time when it is critical … we need to have everything open, all routes open.”

Ms Korde was speaking alongside Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, deputy commander of US Central Command, who said international aid would be delivered on a temporary pier attached to a Gaza beach within days.

“Just a few hours ago, the pier was successfully affixed to the beach in Gaza,” Vice Admiral Cooper said.

“As we sit here now, we have about 500 tonnes of humanitarian assistance, loaded on ships."

He said the aid would be delivered in the “next couple of days”.

UN agencies have warned, however, that the planned maritime aid corridor, along with aid drops from planes, cannot replace far more efficient lorry deliveries.

Israel, which seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt last week, has restricted aid flows into Gaza as it fights against Hamas in the enclave.

Security for the temporary aid pier will be provided by Israel.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said there were no indications that Hamas was planning to attack it.

"But should there be attacks either towards the maritime humanitarian corridor or around the marshalling area, that is going to directly affect Palestinian people, the people that need this aid the most," Ms Singh said.

US President Joe Biden's administration announced in March that it would establish the pier as part of efforts to ease Gaza's humanitarian crisis.

The pier forms part of a US military system called Joint Logistics Over the Shore, or JLots, which was used in military operations during the 1991 Gulf War, and in humanitarian disasters in which ports have been destroyed, such as the Haiti earthquake.

In his State of the Union speech in March, Mr Biden laid blame for the deteriorating situation on Israel, saying that “humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip”.

The UN World Food Programme said in a post on X on Thursday that the threat of famine has “never loomed larger”, and that stocks of fuel and food would run out in days.

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Updated: May 17, 2024, 5:48 AM