US will store aid on secure beach in Gaza as UN pauses distribution from pier


WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military said Monday that it plans to stockpile aid shipments on a secure beach in Gaza during a U.N. pause on distributing food from the American-built pier.

The U.N. World Food Program, which works with U.S. officials to transfer desperately needed aid from the month-old pier to warehouses and local relief teams in Gaza, tweeted Monday that the U.N. would conduct a security review to assess the safety of its staff in handling aid deliveries from the pier. It said the pause would be temporary.

A humanitarian official familiar with the situation said the security review is expected to conclude within a few days and U.N. officials would then make decisions on resuming operations. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss planning.

The pause, which WFP head Cindy McCain first announced in a TV interview Sunday, is the latest trouble to hit the Biden administration's new sea route for bringing in aid to Palestinians. It also signals sharpened concern by the U.N. and relief organizations about their ability to safely care for Gaza's civilians during the eight-month-old war.

Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said the delivery of aid from Cyprus to the pier was paused due to high seas Sunday and Monday but would resume Tuesday. He said there is enough space for aid to be stored in a secure holding area on the beach until agencies restart distribution into Gaza.

“It’s a pretty large area,” he told reporters. “I think we can continue to stockpile aid in the assembly area for onward distribution.”

The pause came just a day after the U.S. military and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is coordinating logistics with relief groups, said Saturday that the pier restarted operations after repairs. Part of the structure broke apart in rough seas and bad weather late last month.

President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. military to construct the pier in March, in hopes of carving out an alternative aid route as the fighting and Israeli restrictions sharply limit shipments through land borders. But rough seas in the Mediterranean, insecurity within Gaza and a surge in fighting since early May mean the pier, completed in mid-May, has been able to operate for only about a week.

Ryder said the U.S. did an air drop of more than 10 metric tons of ready-to-eat meals Sunday.