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UN suspends humanitarian work via US pier after Israeli security forces operation

UN suspends humanitarian work via US pier after Israeli security forces operation
UN suspends humanitarian work via US pier after Israeli security forces operation

 


WASHINGTON (AP) The pier built by the United States to deliver food to Gaza faces one of its most serious challenges, but its humanitarian partner must decide whether it can continue delivering safely and sustainably. ethically, with supplies arriving via the American sea route to starving Palestinians.

The United Nations, the largest actor in providing aid to Gaza, suspended work on the pier after a June 8 operation by Israeli security forces that rescued four hostages and killed more of 270 Palestinians. Adding to the unrest, two U.S. officials said Friday the pier would be detached again due to rough seas to prevent it from breaking apart as happened during bad weather last month.

Rushing to a mortally wounded Israeli commando after the raid, Israeli rescuers opted not to return the way they came, across a land border, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, told reporters. Israeli army. Instead, they rushed to the beach and the site of the US aid center on the Gaza coast, he said. An Israeli helicopter landed near the U.S.-built pier and helped remove the hostages and the commando, according to the U.S. and Israeli military.

FILE – A US military landing craft is seen stranded in Ashdod, May 26, 2024, after being swept by wind and current from the temporary humanitarian pier in the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, file)

For the U.N. and independent humanitarian groups, the event solidified one of their key doubts about the U.S. shipping route: Whether aid workers could cooperate with the U.S. military-backed, military-secured project Israeli territory without violating fundamental humanitarian principles of neutrality and independence and without risking that aid workers would be seen as allies of the United States and Israel and, in turn, as targets in their own right.

Israel and the United States deny that any aspect of the month-old American pier was used in the Israeli raid. They say a nearby area was used to repatriate the hostages.

The United Nations World Food Program, which is working with the United States to move $230 million in dock aid to warehouses and local humanitarian teams for distribution in Gaza, has suspended cooperation as it proceeds to a security review. Since then, help has been piling up on the beach.

You can be sure that we will be very careful about what we assess and our conclusions, said UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths.

FILE – Image provided by U.S. Central Command shows U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 and forces from Israeli defenses placing the Trident Pier on the coast of the Gaza Strip. May 16, 2024. (US Central Command via AP)

Griffiths told reporters at an aid conference in Jordan this week that determining that the Israeli raid inappropriately used the beach or roads around the pier would jeopardize any future humanitarian engagement in the operation.

The U.N. must examine the facts as well as what the public and Palestinian activists think about any involvement by the United States, the pier or aid workers in the raid, spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York .

Humanitarian aid should not be used and should not be seen as a means of taking sides in a conflict, Haq said. The safety of our humanitarian workers depends on the trust of all parties and communities on the ground in their impartiality.

Rumors have circulated on social media, increasing the danger for aid workers, aid groups say.

Whether or not we saw the pier used for military purposes is almost irrelevant. Because the population of Gaza, civilians and armed groups, have the impression that humanitarian aid has been exploited by the parties to the conflict, said Suze van Meegen, head of operations in Gaza for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Oxfam International and other aid organizations said they were waiting for answers from the U.S. government because it is responsible for agreements with the U.N. and other aid groups on how the dock operates and aid is delivered.

The questions include whether Israeli helicopters and security forces used what the United States had promised to aid groups as a no-go zone for the Israeli military around the pier, Scott Paul said. , associate director of Oxfam.

The suspension of deliveries is just one of the problems that have hampered construction of the dock, which President Joe Biden announced in March as an additional way to deliver aid to the Palestinians. The United States said the project was never a solution and urged Israel to lift restrictions on aid shipments via land crossings as famine looms.

The first aid workers from the sea route arrived ashore on May 17, and the work has had ups and downs since:

May 18: Crowds overwhelmed aid trucks coming from the dock, stripping some trucks of their cargo. The WFP suspended deliveries from the dock for at least two days while it found alternative routes with the United States and Israel.

May 24: Just over 1,000 tons of aid were delivered to Gaza from the pier, and the U.S. Agency for International Development later said that all of this aid had been distributed to Gaza.

May 25: High winds and rough seas damaged the pier and four U.S. Army ships ran aground, injuring three service members, one seriously. Crews towed part of the floating dock during what became a two-week pause in operations.

June 8: The US Army announces the resumption of deliveries from the repaired and reinstalled dock. The Israeli military operation took place on the same day.

Sunday: World Food Program head Cindy McCain announced a pause in cooperation with the US dock, citing the previous day's incident and the rocketing of two WFP warehouses that injured a staff member.

Friday: The pier was detached later in the day or Saturday to prevent damage in rough seas and allow the military to reattach it more quickly later, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military planning. The structure is expected to be back in place by next week, they said.

The pier brought more than 2,500 tons (about 5.6 million pounds) of aid to Gaza, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said. About 1,000 tonnes of this quantity were transported by boat on Tuesday and Wednesday after the WFP break and are being stored on the beach awaiting distribution.

The WFP, of course, takes the necessary security measures and reviews to feel safe and able to operate in Gaza, Singh said.

The question now is whether the UN will join this effort.

For aid workers who generally work without weapons or armed guards, and for those they serve, the best guarantee of our safety is communities' acceptance of aid workers' neutrality, said Paul, the Oxfam official.

Palestinians already harbored deep doubts about the pier given the leading role played by the United States, which sends weapons and other support to its ally Israel, said Yousef Munayyer, a senior fellow at the Arab Center of Washington, an independent organization that studies Arab-Israeli issues.

Wary Palestinians suffering in the war between Israel and Hamas are being asked to take America at its word, and that's a tough sell, said Munayyer, a Palestinian American.

So, you know, perception matters a lot, he said. And for people who are literally risking their lives to move humanitarian aid into a war zone, the perception puts you at risk.

___

Lederer reported from the United Nations. AP writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed from Washington.

Sources

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