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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: US to build temporary port for Gaza aid

Published March 8, 2024last updated March 8, 2024

The US military will be building a port on the Gaza coast to receive aid and supplies. Meanwhile, Spain says it will be sending cash-strapped UNRWA over $20 million.

A United States Air Force C-130J Super Hercules conducts an airdrop of humanitarian assistance over Gaza
The US said a temporary port would enable shipments of aid of aid to be delivered by seaImage: United States Air Force/DoD/IMAGO
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • The US announces it will be constructing a temporary port in Gaza for aid
  • Spain says it will resume funding relief agency UNRWA with $21.9 million 

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Skip next section NGO worker says maritime Gaza aid cannot be 'substitute to land routes'
March 8, 2024

NGO worker says maritime Gaza aid cannot be 'substitute to land routes'

Ahmed Bayram, regional media & communication adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council, told DW on Friday that he was skeptical about EU and US plans to bring aid into Gaza by sea.

"The question is: what happened to the actual land routes that we have? Have we given up on those? Have we given up on convincing Israel to allow more aid in and have we given up on diplomacy as as a tool of bringing some belief to people who are who are literally starving in Gaza right now?" Bayram asked. 

He said land crossings like those at Rafah and Kerem Shalom should be reopened fully.

Bayram said using land borders to deliver aid still constitued "the fastest, the most efficient and the most affordable, the least expensive and the quickest" means of getting much-needed food and other items into Gaza, and said that materials were waiting to be sent in at a moment's notice if approved.

"These alternatives, it looks like they are being floated as a substitute to land routes. And this is the real danger here," he said. 

Bayram said the other danger was that the logistical and planning and implementation phases would be taking place amid an existing emergency in Gaza.

"While we're brainstorming how we're going to bring this in, how we're going to construct, where we're going to construct the port, how long it's going to take, there are people who are starving at the moment," he said. 

The EU has said it hopes to have some deliveries operational by sea from Cyprus by the weekend. US President Joe Biden said during his State of the Union speech that the US would be constructing some kind of "port" on or just off the coastal enclave's shoreline.

Skip next section IOC says Israel Olympics sanctions 'out of the question'
March 8, 2024

IOC says Israel Olympics sanctions 'out of the question'

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has no plans at present to sanction Israel or its athletes ahead of the Paris Olympics as a result of the conflict in Gaza, a senior IOC official said on Friday. 

Pierre-Olivier Beckers-Vieujant, the head of the IOC coordination committee for Paris 2024, said the conflict in Gaza and Russia's war in Ukraine, for which the IOC suspended Russia's federation but not its athletes, were "different situations." 

"It's out of the question to imagine sanctions [on Israel] right now," Beckers-Vieujant said. "The reasons that led the IOC to sanction Russia initially and then the Russian Olympic Committee are very specific."

Russia's invasion of Ukraine prompted the IOC to accuse Moscow of breaking the "Olympic truce" with its invasion soon after the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022. Later, the IOC sanctioned Russia's Olympic Committee for incorporating sports organizations from what's internationally recognized as occupied parts of Ukraine.

However, the organization still allows athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete outside of team events, provided they perform well enough to qualify as an independent and then compete under a neutral flag. They must also not have actively supported the war in Ukraine in a personal capacity. Only a handful of Russian athletes are expected to qualify in this manner.

Russia lost an international appeal against these sanctions last month.

Some Palestinian activists and a group of French MPs had called for the IOC to consider similar sanctions for Israel in light of the conflict in Gaza.

IOC chief Thomas Bach said this week that special security provisions would be put in place for Israeli athletes. At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, 11 Israelis were murdered during an attack by Palestinian extremists.

Skip next section 5 killed in Gaza by food aid drop, parachute malfunction
March 8, 2024

5 killed in Gaza by food aid drop, parachute malfunction

Gaza's Hamas-controlled Health Ministry said that five people were killed and another 10 wounded on Friday by a falling humanitarian aid drop in the north of the territory. 

The parachute for the food aid container failed to open properly, meaning the package fell to ground almost in freefall. Videos shared online appeared to have captured the incident.

The casualties were taken to Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital. 

In recent weeks and months, various countries have begun dropping aid shipments via parachute into Gaza to address food shortages and other issues. The practice has intensified since the US adopted it on Saturday. It's particularly common for the isolated and severely damaged north of the coastal strip.

Members of the Jordanian Armed Forces wear oxygen masks as they prepare to airdrop medical aid destined to the Jordanian private field hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, December 6, 2023.
Aid drops into Gaza began early in the conflict but several additional countries, most recently the US, have embraced the delivery method of lateImage: Jehad Shelbak/REUTERS

This unusual delivery method results from the difficulties in convincing Israel and Gaza's other neighbors to allow more goods in at land border crossings.

Skip next section Maritime corridor to Gaza from Cyprus could start this weekend, says EU chief
March 8, 2024

Maritime corridor to Gaza from Cyprus could start this weekend, says EU chief

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says a maritime aid corridor from Cyprus to Gaza could start operating as early as this weekend, delivering desperately-needed aid to besieged Palestinians.

On a visit to the port of Larnaca in Cyprus, a European Union member state, von der Leyen said an initial test run could leave the island nation as early as Friday, delivering food collected by a charity group and supported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"The EU, UAE and USA are launching this Cyprus maritime corridor together," von der Leyen said after visiting port facilities alongside Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides.

"We are now very close to opening this corridor, hopefully this Saturday-Sunday, and I'm very glad to see an initial pilot will be launched today," she added.

Von der Leyen was endorsed for a second term as EU President by her party, the European People's Party (EPP) on Thursday.

Skip next section IDF concludes investigation in deadly aid convoy incident
March 8, 2024

IDF concludes investigation in deadly aid convoy incident

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday said that it had concluded its review of the incident late last month in which 115 Palestinians were killed when an aid convoy was rushed.

"The command review found that IDF troops did not fire at the humanitarian convoy, but did fire at a number of suspects who approached the nearby forces and posed a threat to them," it said of the incident late last month.

The IDF said that soldiers had "fired precisely" at approaching suspects.

The review has been submitted to Israel's Chief of Staff for further investigation.

There were conflicting reports of what happened, with authorities in Gaza attributing the deaths to Israeli troops, who they said opened fire on people who had been waiting for aid trucks to arrive.

Israel had meanwhile initially attributed the deaths to a "stampede" and to people being run over by the trucks as the convoy became surrounded.

The incident has been condemned by many in the global community, with calls for accountability while also spurring on calls for a humanitarian cease-fire.

Gaza aid convoy incident leaves scores dead

Skip next section US announces plan to build a temporary port in Gaza
March 8, 2024

US announces plan to build a temporary port in Gaza

US President Joe Biden used his State of the Union address to announce that a temporary pier would be built on Gaza's coast to receive aid by sea.

"Tonight, I’m directing the US military to establish a temporary pier on the Gaza coast that can receive shipments of food, water, medicine, and shelter," Biden said in comments also posted on social media.

"To Israel, I say humanitarian assistance cannot be secondary. Protecting and saving innocent lives must be a priority," Biden said.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration looks to ease anger among those who are critical of his support for Israel, considering the mounting civilian death toll in the Israel-Hamas war.

The order to construct the pier also comes amid UN warnings of famine facing the Palestinian territory's 2.3 million residents.

Fighting has forced the displacement of 1.9 million civilians, according to UN figures, which is 85% of Gaza's total population.

The war was sparked by the events of October 7, the day the Hamas Islamist militant group led a large-scale terror attack in southern Israel. Over 1,100 people were killed and hundreds of others were taken hostage.

Since then, Israel's military has been involved in a military offensive to root out Hamas fighters. The Hamas-run health ministry says that at least 30,800 people have been killed since the start of the war.

kb/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Skip next section US destroys Houthi missiles and drones
March 8, 2024

US destroys Houthi missiles and drones

United States Central Command (CENTCOM) on Friday said American forces had destroyed Houthi missiles and a UAV in Yemen.

"Between the hours of 3:35 p.m. and 4:55 p.m. (Sanaa time), United States Central Command (CENTCOM) conducted self-defense strikes against four mobile Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) and one Houthi unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen," CENTCOM said in a post on social media platform X.

CENTCOM said that it also shot down three additional UAVs that had been launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, towards the Gulf of Aden.

The Houthis have carried out numerous attacks on ships passing through the key maritime region, citing their opposition to Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Skip next section Spain to give UN Palestinian refugee agency over $20 million
March 8, 2024

Spain to give UN Palestinian refugee agency over $20 million

Spain's government on Thursday announced that it would be giving an additional 20 million ($21.9 million) funding to the UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

"We will make a new contribution of 20 million to the UNRWA to support the organization in its crucial humanitarian work in Gaza and to provide the food, education, and health needs of the nearly six million Palestinian refugees in the region," Spain's Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares said.

The organization faced a funding crisis after several countries — including the US, Germany, the UK and Japan — suspended financial support. That came after Israel's allegations that around a dozen of the agency's employees had been involved in the October 7 terrorist attacks led by Hamas.

Investigations into the allegations are still being conducted and in light of the probe, the European Commission said a week ago it would release 50 million in UNRWA funding.

Gaza's humanitarian crisis worsens as food remains scarce

Skip next section Wrap of main developments on Thursday
March 8, 2024

Wrap of main developments on Thursday

Palestinian militant group Hamas said its representatives left cease-fire talks in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday with no deal reached, accusing Israel of  "thwarting" negotiations and leaving for Doha.

After four days of talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt to secure a 40-day cease-fire ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, there has been no sign of progress on key sticking points, with both sides blaming the other.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile said he would push ahead with a ground offensive in the southern city of Rafah, acknowledging international calls against it but saying it was important to "close ranks." 

"There is international pressure, and it's growing, but particularly when the international pressure rises, we must close ranks. We need to stand together against the attempts to stop the war," Netanyahu said.

He described Rafah as "the last Hamas stronghold."

In the Red Sea, the US military said its forces carried out strikes against two unmanned aerial vehicles in a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the UAVs presented an "imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region," the military said online.

The US action came a day after Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked a bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden, leading to the deaths of at least three crew members.

Houthi strike on cargo ship near Yemen kills three sailors