Gaza war: First truckloads of aid cross US pier amid famine warnings

Humanitarian aid is lifted by a crane operated by US soldiers on a newly built pier off Gaza (US Central Command (CENTCOM)/AFP)
Humanitarian aid is lifted by a crane operated by US soldiers on a newly built pier off Gaza (US Central Command (CENTCOM)/AFP)

The first truckloads of aid crossed a newly built US pier into Gaza on Friday including British supplies, as part of an international mobilisation aimed at averting famine among Palestinians.

No US troops went ashore, the Pentagon stressed, after President Joe Biden ordered the construction of the $320 million jetty to get around an Israeli road blockade of the war-torn Palestinian territory.

The US military's Central Command said: "This is an ongoing, multinational effort to deliver additional aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza via a maritime corridor that is entirely humanitarian in nature, and will involve aid commodities donated by a number of countries and humanitarian organisations."

The trucks began transporting UK aid comprising 8,400 shelter coverage kits - temporary shelters made up of plastic sheeting - sent by ship this week from Cyprus, alongside aid from the United States and United Arab Emirates.

Further UK supplies to come via the Cyprus route will include 2,000 more shelter kits, 900 tents, five forklift trucks and 9,200 hygiene kits,for distribution by the UN’s World Food Programme.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This is the culmination of a herculean joint international effort, and I pay tribute to our Armed Forces who alongside our partners have played a central role delivering this much needed support.

“More aid will follow in the coming weeks, but we know the maritime route is not the only answer,” he stressed, urging further action by Israel.

“We need to see more land routes open, including via the Rafah crossing, to ensure much more aid gets safely to civilians in desperate need of help.”

The pier operation is meant to scale up to 150 truckloads a day entering the Gaza Strip after seven months of war between Israel and Hamas.

But aid agencies say far more help is needed to ward off full-blown famine among Palestinians, including fuel, which Israel has been loath to allow in for fear that Hamas will benefit.

Israel recently seized the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in its push against Hamas, while stepping up bombardment of areas in northern Gaza to prevent the terror group from regrouping.

Before the war, on average more than 500 truckloads entered the Palestinian territory every day including via two road crossings, one from Israel and the other from Egypt through Rafah.

Some of the scant aid getting through now is being targeted by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank before it can reach the Gaza Strip.

Settlers attacked and burned a truck in the West Bank, wounding the driver, the Israeli military said, days after aid trucks heading towards Gaza were ransacked by protesters.

The pier delivery came as US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a phone call with Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant, stressed the "unquestionable necessity" of protecting civilians and ensuring the uninterrupted flow of aid before any major offensive by Israel into Rafah, which is teeming with Palestinian refugees.