US confirms first aid trucks arrive via Gaza pier

The first shipment of humanitarian aid has arrived in Gaza via a temporary floating pier, the US military has confirmed.

US Central Command said aid trucks had begun moving ashore at about 09:00 local time (07:00 BST) on Friday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said 8,400 plastic shelters had been delivered. About 500 tonnes of British aid including tents, hygiene kits and forklift trucks is expected to reach Gaza via the pier, built by US armed forces, in the coming weeks.

However, Mr Sunak said the maritime route was “not the only answer” to the humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

“We need to see more land routes open, including via the Rafah crossing, to ensure much more aid gets safely to civilians in desperate need of help.”

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said: “Gazans are at risk of famine and in desperate need of supplies – Israel must ensure land routes are open and that aid gets safely to where it is needed.”

Both Mr Sunak and Lord Cameron reiterated calls for the Israelis to meet their commitment to allow at least 500 aid trucks a day into Gaza, where about 2.2 million people are in urgent need of food, shelter and other assistance.

Also on Friday, White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said US aid was arriving in Cyprus. “It will be screened by Israeli authorities and loaded on to ships for delivery via the maritime corridor and would be loaded onto ships bound for Gaza,” he told reporters.

He added that it was important that the Rafah crossing – which Israel seized last week – should “open immediately”. Israel and Egypt blame each other for its closure.

The pier is expected to provide access for 90 truckloads of aid at first, increasing to 150 once it is fully operational.

British personnel have been working with US counterparts aboard RFA Cardigan Bay to build and operate the pier.

The US began building the floating base weeks ago to facilitate the delivery of aid to Gaza as Israel continues its military campaign against Hamas.

Hundreds of tonnes of aid arrived in Cyprus on Wednesday where it was screened before being loaded on to ships for delivery to the pier.

Smaller US military vessels – capable of carrying between five and 15 lorries of aid – then transported it to the floating pier, which is several hundred metres long and fixed to the beach in Gaza.

The lorries travelled along the pier before dropping off the aid at a marshalling yard on the beach.

Authorities said that the UN, primarily the World Food Programme, would be responsible for the onward distribution of aid.

The Israeli offensive began after Hamas gunmen burst into southern Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking 252 others back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 35,000 Palestinian have been killed since then, according to the Hama-run health ministry figures.

Mr Kirby also said that 17 US doctors who had been stuck in Gaza since Israel took control of the Rafah crossing had been able to leave.

They were evacuated on Friday through the Kerem Shalom crossing, US diplomats are quoted as saying. That crossing was also shut by Israel last week, but later reopened.

Deliveries to Gaza have considerably slowed down. Sending aid by land can be dangerous, with convoys at times looted by gangs and mobbed by desperate civilians.

In April, seven aid workers from the organisation World Central Kitchen were killed by an Israeli drone strike.

BBC NEWS