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Shipments being stolen after leaving Biden's Gaza Pier

The Gaza Pier is complete and operational. The administration got what it wanted, which was a couple of “U.S. military starts delivering aid to Gaza through floating pier” headlines this past weekend. What you’re not as likely to hear about is what happens to the aid after it leaves the pier.

The good news is no one from Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or any other extremist group has attacked the pier . . . yet. The bad news is apparently some Palestinians stole so much of the aid from the first shipments that the following shipments are on hold until authorities can find enough security.

Reuters tells the grim tale:

Aid deliveries began arriving at a U.S.-built pier on Friday as Israel comes under growing global pressure to allow more supplies into the besieged coastal enclave. The U.N. agreed to assist in coordinating aid distribution from the floating pier, but has remained adamant that deliveries by land are the best way to combat the crisis.

The U.N. said that 10 truckloads of food aid – transported from the pier site by U.N. contractors – were received on Friday at a World Food Program warehouse in Deir El Balah in Gaza.

But on Saturday, only five truckloads made it to the warehouse after 11 others were cleaned out by Palestinians during the journey through an area that a U.N. official said has been hard to access with humanitarian aid. 

“They’ve not seen trucks for a while,” a U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. “They just basically mounted on the trucks and helped themselves to some of the food parcels.”

The U.N. did not receive any aid from the pier on Sunday or Monday. “We need to make sure that the necessary security and logistical arrangements are in place before we proceed,” said the U.N. official.

In other words, some Palestinians in Gaza stole the food parcels before they could be distributed at the intended destination, and nothing’s gotten through since Saturday. You don’t need to take an unnamed U.N. official’s word for it; Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said the same thing yesterday:

There is nothing new today. I think Farhan [Haq] updated you over the Friday night and over the weekend, but there were no . . . the World Food Program is the lead on the logistics cluster, did not take in any trucks today. . . . There were trucks on Friday, Saturday and nothing on Sunday and nothing today.

Al-Jazeera has some footage of crowds of Palestinians surrounding the trucks, climbing up, and throwing down boxes to others. The scene is anarchic.

On Google Maps, the pier is just down the street from the Faisal Equestrian Club. (Didn’t know the Gaza Strip had an equestrian club, did you?) The World Food Program warehouse is in Deir el-Balah, close to the middle of the Gaza Strip. That’s a roughly eight-mile, 28- to 35-minute drive, according to Google Maps.

Heading into the weekend, the message from the administration was, “Don’t worry, the United Nations has got this.”

Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh, speaking Thursday:

The establishment of the Trident pier has been coordinated to support USAID’s and the U.N.’s effort to deliver and distribute aid. In the coming days, aid will be offloaded from the ships at a floating roll-on/roll-off distribution facility, ferried to this Trident pier, and then driven to the shore in Gaza, where USAID and the U.N. will manage the distribution. . . .

The team has worked very, very hard to make sure that aid can come off the pier and can get distributed quickly into Gaza. We know how dire the humanitarian situation is on the ground, and so, we want to make sure that aid gets in as quickly as possible. . . .

We believe that the trucks will be able to reach the populations that need them most, which include northern Gaza. But again, that’s really something for the U.N. to speak to as they’re handling the distribution of that. USAID is, of course, working with the U.N. to ensure that supplies, whether it be food, water, medical, can continue to get to those who need it most. But it’s really the U.N. that should speak to where they’re going to target some of their deliveries. . . .

The message from Sonali Korde of the U.S. Agency for International Development was similar — that this was all a big partnership, and the U.S. government had faith in its partners’ ability to handle their roles in the operation:

Once these supplies arrive in Gaza, humanitarian organizations, including trusted USAID partners, will determine how to ensure they reach those in greatest need in an independent, neutral and impartial manner consistent with humanitarian principles. This is a complex aid mission that requires continuous coordination between many partners. The support and contributions of the United Nations, the government of Cyprus and other international partners, including the U.K., E.U., UAE and France, just to name a few, is vital. . . .

And the principle that we’re working on here is that the humanitarian community and the UN, which will take the lead on distributing the aid in support of humanitarian organizations, should be able to do so in an independent, neutral and safe manner.

I would note that the “humanitarian community” is usually unarmed or at most lightly armed, which is why they’re not that difficult to rob.

Also at that Thursday briefing, Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, touted the effectiveness of the “coordination cells” handing security and ensuring the aid gets where it needs to go:

VICE ADMIRAL COOPER: Yeah, broadly, the two coordination cells that exist, one in Israel and one in Cyprus, have been up and running for weeks as we’ve been working on this, and as I mentioned, side-by-side with respect of partners and multinational in nature supporting USAID, UN representation, as well as NGOs. That’s at one level.

And then at another level on the force protection side, there is very high level of coordination across each of the domains required from a force protection standpoint. You know, clearly, we could not have done any of this without the very close cooperation and support of the Israeli Defense Force, and I would describe it, the coordination, as very tight, as you might imagine.

I notice there’s no mention of any security cooperation with the Palestinians. Without any buy-in from them, you’re almost destined to run into more trouble than you can handle.

Now, maybe everyone grabbing those boxes and running off like a looter is just desperate for food. But since the beginning of the war, there have been accusations that Hamas steals donated food aid and sells it to desperate Palestinians. Don’t take the Israelis’ word for it, take it from Fatah’s state-run television, representing the other big political party that runs Palestinian territories:

Fatah-run Awdah TV host: “Hamas’ persecution of any party who is a source for distributing the [humanitarian] aid or securing it began from the start of the war (i.e., 2023 Gaza war), as Hamas persecuted well-known figures and teams of volunteers on the ground in mid-October [2023]. It attacked them and killed some of them for two reasons: Firstly, preventing any activity by any [other] party in the Gaza Strip; and secondly, ensuring Hamas control over the aid and its storage, which of course leads to these crazy and unreal prices that no one can pay in the shadow of this destruction. After the occupation (i.e., Israel) bombed storehouses controlled by Hamas, the accumulation of tons of various food and aid products that Hamas had taken exclusivity over became clear, at a time when the Gaza Strip is suffering from hunger.”

Part of an interview on Al-Jazeera TV from the Gaza Strip is shown:

Woman from the Gaza Strip: “The aid isn’t reaching all the people.”

Al-Jazeera TV reporter: “Few things are arriving and they [Hamas] claim they are distributing them.”

Woman: “It is all to their [own] homes. Let Hamas catch me and shoot me and do what they want to me.”

I mean, it’s not like anyone would argue that the men of Hamas are of such sterling character, strong ethics, and moral rectitude that they would never steal food aid and force desperate people to pay to survive.

I know this is going to shock you, but it’s conceivable the United Nations isn’t always the most reliable partner, particularly in a war zone. And the U.S. taxpayers have now spent $320 million to build a pier on the Gaza Strip to make it easier for people to steal food aid off of trucks.

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