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US-built floating pier begins moving from Ashdod port to Gaza, defense official says

U.S. Central Command

The Roll-On, Roll-Off Distribution Facility, or floating pier, is pulled by an Army tug boat during Operation Neptune Solace off the shore of Gaza on May 1, 2024. The temporary pier will assist the United States Agency for International Development in the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.



CNN
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The floating pier that will allow for humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza from the sea is moving from the port of Ashdod toward Gaza, according to a US defense official.

In addition, military ships that will construct the pier and secure it to the beach are also making their way to Gaza, the official said.

Security concerns and sea conditions had delayed the movement of the pier for several days, but on Tuesday, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said the pier should be operational “in the coming days.” The port of Ashdod is approximately 30 miles from the distribution site in Gaza where goods will be offloaded from the causeway, meaning the components of the system should be in position soon.

The Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (JLOTS) system consists of two parts: the floating pier where shipments will be offloaded and the causeway to transfer the shipments to the distribution point in Gaza.

On Wednesday, the UK announced that its first shipment of humanitarian aid, including 8,400 temporary shelters, is on its way from Cyprus to Gaza. Cyprus is the staging point for the humanitarian aid that will be shipped to Gaza through the maritime corridor and the pier.

“The aid will be distributed within Gaza as soon as feasible,” the UK said in its announcement.

Meanwhile, US humanitarian aid is already positioned on a ship at the Ashdod port for offloading when the pier is ready, the Pentagon has said.

The temporary pier is intended to supplement the aid going in through the land crossings into Gaza. The initial goal is to allow 90 truckloads of aid to enter Gaza each day through the pier, the UK said, a number that could increase to 150 truckloads per day when the pier is fully operational.

In a news briefing on Wednesday, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the deputy commander of the US Central Command, stressed that the pier was not intended to replace land routes into Gaza, and there would be “no US military boots on the ground in Gaza.”

He also laid out how the process would go. First, the aid arrives in Cyprus where it is screened and prepared. Then, large commercial ships bring that aid to a “floating platform” near the Gaza coast, where it is then transferred to smaller vessels that can dock at the temporary pier. Once ashore, the aid will be distributed into Gaza by the UN and World Food Program.

There are currently “hundreds of tons of aid ready for delivery and thousands of tons of aid in the pipeline,” from multiple nations, Cooper said.

Last week, CNN reported that the US still faced a number of obstacles before JLOTS could begin operations. The US was closely watching whether what it called a “limited” Israeli incursion into Rafah in southern Gaza would affect the temporary pier. In addition, the US had not yet finalized plans about who would transport the humanitarian aid shipments from the causeway to the distribution point in Gaza.

On Monday, the Pentagon said it had contracted drivers for the pier, though it declined to identify the drivers.

“I can just tell you it’s a third-party contractor, but that’s it,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said at a press briefing. Once the humanitarian aid arrives in Gaza, the UN World Food Program will distribute it to the Palestinian population.

On Tuesday, Ryder said security was in place to allow JLOTS operations to begin when the pier was ready.

“We’re confident that we’ll have the security in place that we need,” Ryder said.

JLOTS will cost approximately $320 million to operate for the first three months, according to the Pentagon.

In the briefing, Cooper also addressed security concerns, saying the US and Israel have developed a plan to protect all personnel working on the project in the area, though he did not share more specific details.

Dan Dieckhaus, the response director of USAID, acknowledged there is “constant risk” – but added that JLOTS and the causeway are not “exposed to any additional risk above and beyond that which is already present in Gaza.”



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