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WASHINGTON: A controversial US effort to boost aid supplies to Gaza by building a temporary jetty has faced repeated problems, with bad weather damaging the structure and causing further disruptions to the arrival of desperately needed aid.
More than 4,100 metric tons (nine million pounds) of aid has so far been delivered through the $230 million jetty project, but it has only been operational for a limited time, falling short of President Joe Biden’s promise to allow a “massive increase” in aid reaching Gaza ” every day”.
The coastal territory has been devastated by more than eight months of Israeli operations against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which have uprooted Gaza’s population and left it in desperate need of aid.
“Unfortunately, the Gaza Strip has been an extremely expensive distraction from what is really needed and what is legally required,” said Michelle Strucke, director of the Humanitarian Agenda’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This is “safe and unfettered humanitarian access for humanitarian organizations to provide aid to the people of Gaza who are suffering historic levels of deprivation,” she said.
U.S. forces have also dropped air aid, but that, plus jetty deliveries, “were never meant to replace reduced, sustained access to land crossings that provided safe access for aid workers to deliver aid,” Strucke said.
“The pursuit has cost them time, energy and more than $200 million in American taxpayer dollars.”
Biden announced during his State of the Union address in March that the U.S. military would set up the pier, and U.S. troops began building it the following month, initially at sea.
But in a sign of trouble to come, high seas and wind necessitated the relocation of construction to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
The pier was completed in early May, but weather conditions meant it was not safe to move it into place immediately and the Gaza coast was not connected until mid-month.
High seas caused four US military vessels supporting the mission to break free from their moorings on 25 May, two of them beached, and the pier was damaged by bad weather three days later, necessitating repair and rebuilding of sections in Ashdod.
She was rejoined the coast on 7 June, but aid deliveries were soon suspended for two days due to bad weather conditions.
The pier then had to be removed from the shore and moved to Ashdod on June 14 to protect it from the high seas. He was returned to Gaza this week and aid deliveries have now resumed.
Raphael Cohen, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation research group, said “the catwalk effort has not yet produced the results the Biden administration had hoped for.”
“Apart from the weather problems, it was quite expensive and it didn’t solve the operational problems of getting aid to Gaza,” he said.
Cohen said that despite the problems with the jetty, it provides another entry point for aid and allows aid to be brought in even when land crossings are closed — a persistent problem that has exacerbated Gaza’s dire humanitarian situation.
And he said the effort may also help improve the future deployment of the temporary military pier, which was last used operationally more than a decade ago in Haiti.
In addition to the weather, the project faces a major challenge in the distribution of aid coming through the jetty, which the UN World Food Program has decided to halt while it assesses the security situation – an assessment that is still ongoing.
The announcement came after Israel carried out a nearby operation earlier this month that freed four hostages but killed more than 270 people in Hamas-ruled Gaza, according to health officials.
The UN said it welcomed all aid efforts, but that land routes were the most important routes for aid to arrive.
Strucke emphasized that “what Gazans need is not the appearance of help – they need real help to get to them.”
Washington “should be very careful not to support actions that may look good on paper to increase aid routes but do not result in aid actually reaching the Palestinians in need on a large scale,” she said.

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