Wednesday, June 12, 2024

US Gaza aid pier not used in Israel’s captives rescue mission: Pentagon

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US says it is ‘incidental’ that deadly Israeli operation took place near floating dock built to deliver aid to Gaza.

The United States has stressed that its temporary aid pier in Gaza was not used in the Israeli captive rescue operation in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza that killed more than 270 people.

The Pentagon said on Monday that reports linking the pier to Saturday’s Israeli assault that resulted in the freeing of four captives held by Hamas are “inaccurate”.

“It was near, but I think it’s incidental. Again, the pier, the equipment, the personnel all supporting that humanitarian effort had nothing to do with the [Israeli military] rescue operation,” Pentagon spokesperson Patrick Ryder told reporters.

He added that the Israeli operation – despite its proximity to the US floating dock –  does not put American personnel at a “greater risk”.

“To underscore, the temporary pier on the coast of Gaza was put in place for one purpose only: to help move additional urgently-needed lifesaving assistance to Gaza,” Ryder said.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the Israeli military used a helicopter on a beach “not far from” the US pier to evacuate three of the captives and the soldiers who freed them.

The Israeli military intensively bombed the Nuseirat area during the operation, killing at least 274 people, including dozens of women and children, according to Palestinian authorities in Gaza.

The administration of President Joe Biden lauded the rescue of the captives.

“​​We welcome the rescue of four hostages who after eight months of captivity have finally been reunited with their families in Israel. The United States will not rest until every hostage is returned home,” the Department of State said in a statement on Saturday.

While the US military has denied involvement in the attack, several international media outlets, including The New York Times, have reported that American officials provided intelligence that helped with the operation.

Hamas decried Washington’s purported involvement in the mission, saying it “proves once again the complicity of the US administration and its full participation in the war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip”.

The Palestinian group said the attack also raises questions over the professed US concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Biden announced the decision to build the humanitarian pier in March amid the Israeli blockade on Gaza, which has sparked fears of famine.

The floating US dock was completed in May, but within weeks, it sustained damage from bad weather, requiring repairs. The pier was reassembled on Friday.

Aid groups have argued for weeks that the US dock is not an adequate substitute to delivering humanitarian assistance via land routes.

Late in May, 20 aid organisations, including Doctors Without Borders, called the US-installed dock part of “cosmetic changes” that fail to address the crisis adequately.

“As Israeli attacks intensify on Rafah, the unpredictable trickle of aid into Gaza has created a mirage of improved access while the humanitarian response is in reality on the verge of collapse,” the groups said in a statement.

The Nuseirat attack could further deepen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) paused its aid deliveries in Gaza after the operation.

“Two of our warehouses were rocketed yesterday, so we’ve stepped back just for the moment to make sure that we’re on safe terms and on safe ground before we’ll restart,” WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain told CBS News on Sunday.

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