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Pentagon: Israel did not use Gaza pier in hostage operation

U.S. ARMY CENTRAL/HANDOUT / MAY 19
                                A truck carries humanitarian aid across Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver aid, off the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, near the Gaza coast.
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U.S. ARMY CENTRAL/HANDOUT / MAY 19

A truck carries humanitarian aid across Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver aid, off the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, near the Gaza coast.

WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS >> The Pentagon on Monday sought to dispel what it said were false social media reports that Israel used a floating U.S. pier off Gaza in a hostage rescue mission as the U.N. said it would review security before resuming aid deliveries from the dock.

Pentagon spokesperson Major General Patrick Ryder pushed back “on some of the inaccurate social media allegations,” stressing that the pier was not used during the Israeli military operation on Saturday to rescue four hostages held by Hamas.

Ryder acknowledged that there were Israeli helicopter operations “near” the pier. He said, “The pier, the equipment, the personnel all supporting that humanitarian effort had nothing to do” with the Israeli rescue operation.

The U.S. military briefly resumed offloading aid on Saturday for the first time in more than 10 days, but bad sea conditions halted aid movement on Sunday and Monday. The operation had been temporarily suspended for repairs to the pier after a piece broke off.

However, the U.N. has not yet resumed transportation of the aid from the pier to U.N. World Food Programme warehouses. WFP chief Cindy McCain said on Sunday that those warehouses were struck on Saturday and one person injured.

Gaza’s health ministry said 274 Palestinians were killed during Israel’s hostage rescue operation.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. involvement in the pier operations would remain suspended “until a thorough assessment of the security situation is conducted to ensure the safety of our staff and our partners.”

“What’s driving U.N. security concerns is that we continue to try to deliver aid in an active war zone,” he said. “We constantly reassess our security position, constantly reassess our operations to ensure that our own staff is safe and – just as importantly – those people who are trying to get aid.”

Aid began arriving via the U.S.-built pier on May 17, and the U.N. said it transported 137 trucks of aid to warehouses, some 900 metric tons, before the U.S. announced on May 28 that it had suspended operations so repairs could be made.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced in March the plan to put the pier in place for aid deliveries as famine loomed in Gaza, a Hamas-run enclave of 2.3 million people, during the war between Israel and the Palestinian militants.

Israel is retaliating over an Oct. 7 attack by its militants. More than 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies. More than 100 hostages are believed to remain captive in Gaza.

According to Gaza health authorities, more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the war began.

Ryder said he did not believe misperceptions about the pier following the hostage rescues would put U.S. forces, who have air defenses, at greater risk.

However, some aid groups said they saw cause for worry.

“There’s serious concerns about community acceptance of aid deliveries from the pier,” said Shaina Low of the Norwegian Refugee Council aid agency. “Perceptions like this put our operations and staff at risk because people could attack us if they think we are undercover agents.”

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