". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Gaza Aid Landed at U.S.-Built Floating Pier Promptly Looted

May 23, 2024

It took longer for Americans to build a floating pier on the Gazan coast to deliver aid than for the aid to be looted. President Joe Biden announced the pier project during his March 7 state of the union address. After a number of delays, the pier was in place by May 7. However, due to “high winds and high sea swells,” as Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh described it, no aid could be delivered immediately.

The first 10 truckloads of food aid were landed on the floating pier on Friday, May 17 and were subsequently delivered to a World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse, eight miles away. On Saturday, 16 more trucks landed with aid. However, “11 of those trucks never made it to the warehouse,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general. “Crowds had stopped the trucks at various points along the way. The Associated Press reported gunfire erupting at the scene, leaving at least one man dead. “There was, you know, what I think I would refer to as ‘self-distribution,’” Dujarric added.

In response to the looting, the U.S. military halted further aid deliveries on Sunday.

Due to a lack of specific reporting, it’s unclear who was responsible for plundering the aid caravan. U.N. officials have planted the suggestion that the aid was looted by Palestinian civilians, brought to the brink of starvation by Israel’s blockade (more on this below). Following this lead, most suggestible media reports have attributed the “self-distribution” to simply “crowds.”

However, it would be strange if civilian crowds in Gaza had enough firearms to cause the aforementioned shootout over aid. This is Gaza, not Chicago. Since its bloody coup in 2007, Hamas has governed the territory with an iron fist, brutally eliminating any perceived threat to its control. It’s hard to believe that any Palestinian in the Gaza Strip has firearms besides Hamas and its allied terrorist groups.

Perhaps the U.S. military drew the same conclusion. Perhaps they suspected the supplies plundered from aid trucks eventually wound up in the hands of terrorists — even if the terrorists happily used crowds of hungry civilians to initially stop the caravan. Perhaps that’s why they halted further aid deliveries.

Meanwhile, of the food aid that made it through to the U.N. warehouse, U.S. officials believe none has been distributed to those in need. When asked on Tuesday whether the aid had reached Gaza residents, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder responded, “I do not believe so.”

That makes two problems with the American military’s Gaza food delivery mission. First, international and non-governmental aid organizations on the ground are not effective at distributing the aid to those in need. Second, once aid enters Gaza, it’s hard to prevent it from falling into the hands of nefarious actors.

Any U.S. aid delivery strategy that fails to account for these two problems is doomed to misfire. Biden promised no U.S. military “boots on the ground” in Gaza (are boots on a floating pier anchored to the ground much different?), which means the U.S. must, at some point, hand off the aid to the groups handling so ineffectively and insecurely. When asked Tuesday “who was responsible for security” of the looted aid trucks, Dujarric admitted, “There is no — we don’t have any armed security.”

The current U.S. plan to get the pier’s aid terminal up-and-running again is for the aid convoys to travel to the WFP warehouse by “new routes.” This, obviously, solves none of the problems. This new plan is likely to last only as long as it takes for the same “crowds” to ambush the convoy on its new route. If the crowd still has guns and the men in the truck do not, it’s hard to imagine any other outcome but more looting.

Neither problem should have surprised the Biden administration, if they were willing to listen to America’s close friend and ally, Israel. Israel has known all along that Hamas commandeers aid shipments and that Gazan aid organizations are ineffective. As of Tuesday, Israeli border guards had outworked international aid agencies to the point that “650 truckloads [were] waiting for collection and distribution … on the Gazan side of the crossings,” according to Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). “Crossings” is plural because Israel worked to open a second border crossing to aid trucks on May 1, after Hamas damaged the crossing in its October 7 attack. Meanwhile, Hamas stole (from UNRWA) the very first convoy of aid to enter the Gaza Strip through the newly restored crossing.

In February, a U.S. diplomat denied that Hamas seized aid shipments into Gaza, but he also acknowledged that Hamas could “shape where and to whom assistance goes.”

America’s difficulties delivering aid into the Gaza Strip underscore who is the villain, and who is the hero, in this story. Reporting from international and mainstream media outlets would convince you that Israel is out to maximize the suffering of people in Gaza, including by starving them to death. The International Criminal Court (ICC) recently issued “preposterous” indictments against Israeli leaders, “saying that Israel has starved Gazans to death,” as Eugene Kontorovich, director of the Center for Middle East and International Law at George Mason University Scalia Law School said on “Washington Watch.”

“It’s not clear that anyone has starved in Gaza,” responded Kontorovich. But, “to the extent there’s a problem with food supplies there, it is well known that Hamas steals and plunders all the civilian, all the humanitarian supplies that are coming in. So it’s not clear why it’s Israel rather than Hamas that is being accused of this.”

The ICC has no real jurisdiction, so it “can’t really do anything directly against Israel,” said Kontorovich. But the charges are nevertheless “blood libel against the Jews,” he said, a classic example of anti-Semitism, which will be used “in a further diplomatic campaign to delegitimize Israel.” But the claim that Israel is trying to starve Palestinian civilians by not allowing aid into Gaza is simply false.

“Since the beginning of the war,” Israel has allowed 19,981 truckloads of food, 1,752 truckloads of water, 4,213 truckloads of shelter equipment, 2,002 truckloads of medical supplies, and 1,784 truckloads of mixed supplies into Gaza, as well as 297 tanks of fuel and 541 tanks of cooking gas. That adds up to 572,300 tons of humanitarian aid on 29,746 trucks. (Meanwhile, Gaza’s other neighbor, Egypt, has closed its border crossing and is allowing no aid into the strip.)

Israel has done this, even though they know much of the aid will end up in their enemy’s hands, to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians. They have delivered thousands of leaflets, broadcast their targets in advance, and otherwise sacrificed operational efficiency in countless ways to spare Palestinian lives. Israel has done all this, and then the international community blames them when Hamas, a terrorist organization, steals humanitarian aid from civilians and uses those civilians as human shields.

No country in the world is doing more to help the people of Gaza than the nation of Israel. Yet Biden’s decision to build a floating pier on the Gaza coast was essentially a rebuke to our ally, a declaration that Israel isn’t doing enough. It only took two days of real-world interactions for the Biden administration to discover that Gaza aid delivered through an American port of entry faces all the same barriers as aid delivered through an Israeli port of entry — none of which are Israel’s fault.

Biden’s floating pier is an inefficient, costly alternative to Israeli border crossings. U.S. officials claimed the pier could initially handle 90 trucks per day, possibly up to 150 trucks. Yet only a couple dozen trucks have left the pier since its completion two weeks ago. For comparison, just on Monday, 403 aid-bearing trucks entered Gaza, nearly all through Israel.

The floating pier reportedly involved the labor of 1,000 U.S. servicemembers and a price tag of $320 million. “The administration got what it wanted” out of the pier, speculated National Review’s Jim Geraghty, “which was a couple of ‘U.S. military starts delivering aid to Gaza through floating pier’ headlines this past weekend.” But, for the civilians of Gaza, it has delivered next to nothing.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.