A US ship with equipment for building pier on its way to Gaza

AP , Sunday 10 Mar 2024

A U.S. Army vessel carrying equipment for building a temporary pier in Gaza was on its way to the Mediterranean on Sunday, three days after U.S. President Joe Biden announced plans to ramp up aid deliveries by sea to the besieged Strip.

United States Air Force drops humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, on Saturday, March 2024. AP


Israel said it would inspect Gaza-bound cargo before it leaves a staging area in nearby Cyprus. The daily number of aid trucks entering Gaza by land over the past five months has been far below the 500 that entered before the war because of Israeli restrictions and security issues.

Meanwhile, Biden stepped up his public criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden said he believes Netanyahu is “hurting Israel more than helping Israel” in how he is approaching its war on Gaza, now in its sixth month.

Speaking Saturday to MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart, the president expressed support for Israel’s right to pursue Hamas, but said that Netanyahu “must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken.” He added that “you cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead."

U.S. Central Command said the first U.S. Army vessel, General Frank S. Besson, left a base in Virginia on Saturday and was on its way to the Eastern Mediterranean with equipment for pier construction.

United States officials said it will likely be weeks before the pier is operational.

The sea corridor is backed by the EU together with the United States, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. The European Commission has said that U.N. agencies and the Red Cross will also play a role.

A ship belonging to Spain’s Open Arms aid group was expected to make a pilot voyage to test the corridor as early as this weekend. The ship has been waiting at Cyprus’s port of Larnaca.

Open Arms founder Oscar Camps has said the ship, which is pulling a barge with 200 tons of rice and flour, would take two to three days to arrive at an undisclosed location.

A member of the charity World Central Kitchen, which is also involved in the test run, said in a post on X that once the barge reaches Gaza, the aid would be off-loaded by a crane, be placed on trucks and driven to northern Gaza, which has been largely cut off from aid shipments.

Senior aid officials have warned that air and sea deliveries can’t make up for a shortage of supply routes on land.

The new push for getting more aid came on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which follows a lunar calendar and could start as early as Sunday evening, depending on the sighting of a crescent moon.

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