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The Pentagon plans to reinstall the floating pier off the Gaza coast

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

The Pentagon says the U.S-built temporary pier on the Gaza coast meant to deliver humanitarian aid will be reinstalled in the next few days. It was removed about a week ago because of bad weather. Even before that, it had not lived up to the Biden administration's hopes, and once it's reinstalled, it might not stay up for long. NPR's Hadeel Al-Shalchi joins us now from Tel Aviv. What is the current status with this pier?

HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, BYLINE: So the pier has had some very bad luck since the beginning of its operations in May. Bad weather and security concerns have hampered the delivery of aid from the pier, so much so that even though it will be reinstalled, the Associated Press is reporting that the plan is actually to dismantle the pier completely, and then the U.S. military will leave the area. This is supposed to happen after the aid piling up in Cyprus and that's already on the pier is moved on land.

So aid has already been very hard to get into Gaza because of regular border closures by the Israeli military in Egypt, and then distributing the aid once it gets into Gaza has been difficult because of the ongoing fighting. Also, looting by armed gangs, which Israel says includes Hamas, and by desperate, starving Palestinians has made delivery a challenge also. President Biden, as a reminder, announced in March during his State of the Union speech that the U.S. military would build this pier and seemed confident it would be a way to relieve some of the humanitarian suffering inside Gaza, but so far, between the bad weather and security concerns, it's been largely a failure.

PFEIFFER: Hadeel, is any aid getting through the pier now, and if it is getting through, is it getting to Palestinians?

AL-SHALCHI: That's a very good question. Aid from the pier has recently been piling up on the Gaza beach, and it's been a great challenge to deliver it. It was just sitting there because the United Nations stopped its deliveries from the pier in early June after the Israeli military used the area during a rescue operation, which freed four hostages. About 270 Palestinians were killed in that operation, according to health officials there, and the U.N. says it's now investigating if the pier itself was used in that operation.

So last week, the U.N.'s World Food Program, which is in charge of distributing the aid from the pier, arranged for all of it to be moved into a warehouse to prevent it from spoiling, and the thing is - to keep in mind also that the aid delivered via the pier is just a fraction of what's needed. Aid agencies say that Gaza needs at least 500 trucks of aid a day to relieve the suffering, and Israel says only about 200 is going in, and lately, a new report by the U.N. agency which investigates famine says that because of food shortages and hunger, half a million Palestinians in Gaza are now facing starvation.

PFEIFFER: And the larger context here is that as the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza keeps going on, it keeps worsening the humanitarian situation.

AL-SHALCHI: Exactly, and according to the U.N., four schools-turned-shelters have been hit by Israeli airstrikes in the past four days. Just yesterday, at least 25 Palestinians sheltering in a school in north Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike, according to health officials. Fuel is running out in hospitals. Many health facilities have been forced to close. And while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that the Israeli military was winding down its offensive in Gaza, there's renewed fighting on the ground in the north and the south. There's a new ground offensive in Gaza City after the military pulled out months ago. At that time, they said Hamas was defeated. So just a few days ago, the Israeli military ordered another evacuation for thousands of Palestinians in the north.

PFEIFFER: That's NPR's Hadeel Al-Shalchi in Tel Aviv. Thank you.

AL-SHALCHI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Hadeel Al-Shalchi
Hadeel al-Shalchi is an editor with Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, Al-Shalchi was a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press and covered the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya. In 2012, she joined Reuters as the Libya correspondent where she covered the country post-war and investigated the death of Ambassador Chris Stephens. Al-Shalchi also covered the front lines of Aleppo in 2012. She is fluent in Arabic.
Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.