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Pentagon Says None of Food Aid Moved Through Gaza Pier Has Made It to Palestinians

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The Pentagon said Tuesday that it believes none of the hundreds of tons of aid delivered over several days via a military-built pier in Gaza has made it to Palestinians.

The pier, erected by the U.S. Army to ease the humanitarian crisis amid the Israel-Hamas war, was secured to the Gaza shoreline Thursday, and trucks began dropping off pallets of food ashore on Friday. But the United Nations reported difficulties moving the aid once it reached the shore, including an apparent ambush that reportedly turned deadly.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Tuesday that more than 569 metric tons of aid had been delivered to Gaza via the pier, called a Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore operation, or JLOTS, but that it did not appear that any of it had actually been delivered to the starving residents of Gaza.

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The aid pier has been seen as a key contribution by the U.S. and a top military operation to help embattled residents suffering after months of a brutal Israeli offensive, which has been aimed at eliminating Hamas after its terrorist attack in October but has also drawn increasing international condemnation for its disregard for civilian casualties.

During the first days of aid deliveries, reports indicate that the security situation outside the pier area is highly unstable and dangerous. Ryder confirmed that some of the first loads of aid that were brought in were looted before aid organizations could formally distribute them.

“As it was being taken along the transportation route, it was intercepted by some people who took that aid off those vehicles,” Ryder said.

Officials from the U.N. World Food Program — one of the aid groups working on the ground in Gaza — told The Associated Press that none of the 11 aid trucks that left the beach area where supplies were being stockpiled made it to a warehouse Saturday.

The group said a crowd of people gathered nearby and “commandeered” the aid, and The Associated Press reported that the scene ended with one Palestinian dead from a gunshot.

While the operation is still struggling to get aid delivered to the Palestinian people, it appears to be meeting the expectations that U.S. military officials have set for themselves and the maritime component of the operation.

On Thursday, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters that the U.S. was looking to move an “initial tranche of 500 tons in the coming days, which is pretty substantial, and then more to follow behind.”

What is less clear is who is responsible for providing security for food convoys once they leave the area of the pier. Beyond some military advisers in Israel and surveillance drones over Gaza, the U.S. military has stayed out of the war zone.

Two Navy destroyers were tasked to provide security in the waters around the U.S. aid pier.

Sonali Korde, the assistant to the administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, told reporters Thursday that “the U.N. will make security assessments” to distribute the aid.

“We are fully aligned and fully support the U.N.’s ability to deliver this assistance in a neutral, impartial, unfettered manner,” Korde added.

However, on Tuesday, Ryder put that responsibility on aid groups.

“The U.S. military is delivering it to the causeway. … The [nongovernmental organizations] that are supporting this effort pick it up and take it for onward distribution,” he said.

In the weeks leading up to the pier coming online, military and administration officials stressed the role that the Israeli Defense Force will play in securing the area around the pier and helping to protect U.S. troops. However, it appears that protection does not extend to convoys once they’ve left the area around the pier.

Major news outlets have also reported that Israeli settlers have taken to attacking aid shipments at border crossings. The Guardian reported Tuesday that some groups have even accused Israeli security forces of tipping off settlers to aid convoy routes — in turn, allowing them to attack or block them.

Ryder told reporters that there have now been discussions “between the U.S., Israel and United Nations … to identify alternative routes for the safe movement of staff and cargo,” before adding that movements “from the assembly area had resumed today.”

“We do anticipate that assistance will be distributed in the coming days,” he said. “We’re going to make it happen, and we’re going to get this food to the Palestinian people.”

Related: 2 Navy Destroyers Will Help Protect Military’s Gaza Aid Pier, Official Confirms

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