Even While Being Accused of Pursuing Genocide, Israel Boosts American Aid Plan for Gazans

Will the plan, though, endanger the American aid workers situated on the offshore pier designed to help bring necessities to Palestinians?

AP/Abdel Kareem Hana
A ship off the coast of Gaza floats near a U.S.-built pier that will be used to facilitate aid deliveries, as seen from the central Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. AP/Abdel Kareem Hana

Israel, increasingly accused of genocidal intent in Gaza, is helping to facilitate President Biden’s long-promised plan to aid Gazans through an offshore pier, which is scheduled to become operational Friday. Will the plan, though, endanger American aid workers? 

“Today, approximately 7:40 a.m. (Gaza time) United States Central Command personnel supporting the humanitarian mission to deliver additional humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in need anchored a temporary pier to the beach in Gaza,” Centcom announced Thursday on X. 

The pier, known as the Joint Logistics Over-the Shore, was announced by Mr. Biden in early March. Food, medicine, and other necessities are being amassed at a Cyprus port, from which they will be shipped to the pier, and from there to land.  

When announced, Washington made clear that no Americans would actually go on land, and Centcom stressed in its announcement Thursday on  X that “no U.S. troops entered Gaza.”

Trucks, Centcom said, will begin to deliver goods to the Gaza Strip from the pier. The Israel Defense Force is coordinating with the Americans on handling the aid once it’s delivered onto land. “We have made extensive preparations to receive the pier,” the IDF wrote on X Thursday. 

Even as Washington is adamant that no American boots would touch ground, it is far from clear that the Americans who man the pier are out of danger. “They could be harmed by errand fire from our side or, more likely, from Hamas attempts to sabotage the pier,” a former IDF director of intelligence research, Yossi Kuperwasser, tells the Sun. 

Last Wednesday Hamas shot several missiles at the spot where the pier’s construction was being completed. The attack came hours after Secretary Austin told reporters that there were “no indications currently that there is an active intent” on behalf of Hamas to harm the pier. Yet, Mr. Austin added, “this is a combat zone, and a number of things can happen.”

To underscore that point, an IDF tank fired at Israeli paratroopers, killing five fighters and injuring several others. The friendly-fire incident occurred in an area where Hamas is attempting to re-establish a presence after its organized battalions there were decimated. The area, Jabalia, is a few miles north of the American pier. 

The IDF will certainly be wary of any similar incident involving Americans. International pressure is growing: Even as the IDF helps Mr. Biden’s plan to deliver aid to Gaza civilians, South Africa on Thursday renewed its attempt to declare Israel guilty of genocide at the Hague-based International Court of Justice. 

In January, the ICJ stopped short of ordering Israel to end the war based on Pretoria’s allegation that Israel is violating its obligations under the genocide convention. Yet, the Washington-led global pressure on the IDF to forgo operating at Rafah has emboldened South Africa to return to the court.   

“Horrific human suffering” in Gaza “mandates that the court now order Israel to cease military operations,” a South African attorney, Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, told the ICJ Thursday.

Changes in the court’s personnel — including its new president, Lebanon’s Nawaf Salam, who replaced America’s Joan Donoghue — could be detrimental for Israel, as it is scheduled to rebut South Africa on Friday. Israeli lawyers are expected to refer to the UN tweak of casualty statistics in Gaza that halved the number of women and children deaths.

Israel’s coordinator of government activities in the territories released images of a bustling food market at Deir el Balah, in northern Gaza, Thursday. Despite constant UN claims — widely echoed around the world and in the American press — warnings of looming famine in Gaza seem exaggerated. 

Meanwhile, as an IDF battalion is now operating in eastern and southern Rafah, the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said on Thursday that two more battalions are about to be deployed there. The plan seems to entail an incremental progression, while slowly moving civilians to a nearby tent city built by the Israelis.  

Officials of the Biden administration have for weeks insisted that the Israelis have no viable plan to remove to safety more than a million Gazans who have sheltered at Rafah. Yet, now Washington is complaining that moving civilians out of danger adds to the suffering. 

“The dire situation in Gaza is further complicated by what is happening at Rafah, which has forced 450,000 people to flee since May 6,” the response director at the U.S. Agency for International Development, Dan Dieckhaus, told reporters Wednesday. Israeli officials claim that even more civilians, up to 600,000 of them, have already left Rafah for the tent city. 

The longer the war lasts, though, the harder America is bound to lean on Israel to end it. For now, slowing down the IDF’s military operations has failed to ease civilian suffering in the Gaza Strip. Conversely, the sooner Israel achieves its military objectives, the faster real humanitarian reconstruction can begin.

The New York Sun

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