Amalthea again

On Saturday shipments from Cyprus to Gaza resumed. According to CNN, “The ship, called “Jennifer,” departed Larnaca Port in Cyprus at 9 a.m. local (2 a.m. ET) and will take around 25 to 30 hours to arrive at Israel’s Ashdod port, according to ANERA’s (American Near East Refugee Aid) emergency response team lead in the West Bank, Mohenad Itayam. Itayam told CNN the 400 tons of aid would undergo Israeli security clearance upon arrival. From there, it will be loaded onto trucks that will then go south to the Kerem Shalom border crossing before entering Gaza.” (More)

The Amalthea maritime corridor was originally conceived as opening a new gateway directly into hardest hit Northern Gaza. This opportunity was being piloted by World Central Kitchen and others when IDF action on April 1 killed seven WCF staff (here). There have been no further maritime deliveries from Cyprus until this last weekend. Please notice that while goods are transferred to trucks at Ashdod, north of Gaza, the trucks are then squeezed through the Kerem Shalom border crossing adjacent to southern Gaza.

World Central Kitchen has announced it will resume operations in Gaza, including possible use of the maritime channel from Cyprus. “We have been forced to make a decision: stop feeding altogether during one of the worst hunger crises ever, ending our operation that accounted for 62% of all International NGO aid, or keep feeding knowing that aid, aid workers, and civilians are being intimidated and killed. These are the hardest conversations and we have considered all perspectives when deliberating. Ultimately, we decided that we must keep feeding, continuing our mission of showing up to provide food to people during the toughest of times.”

The US Department of Defense has announced that near-shore construction has begun of the the floating pier and causeway off Gaza that is expected to receive flows from Cyprus (and elsewhere). According to CNN, “A senior military official said last week the US is “on track to begin delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza from the sea in early May,” which will begin at the equivalent of 90 trucks per day of aid and then “quickly scale up” to 150 trucks per day once full operational capacity is reached.” (More and more.)

More aid is arriving in Gaza, see chart below. This is much better than the deep drought experienced most of February. But inbound deliveries remain well-below the average of 500 trucks per day received prior to October 7 — and even then, sixty percent of Gazans were “food insecure” (here and here). From a supply chain point-of-view, there is no flow. There are sporadic spurts, some shallow pooling, even a few sudden sprays, but mostly it is only a trickle compared to what is desperately needed. The New York Times has a helpful operational overview of how inbound to the DOD floating pier will be discharged into Gaza. Rather than intermodal efficiency, it is a collection of multi-modal hurdles unfolding into a last mile shooting war.

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May 6 Update: Rocket and mortar fire near the Kerem Shalom crossing has disrupted deliveries into Gaza. Rough seas have complicated completion of the of the near-shore pier to serve Gaza. This morning Reuters is reporting, “Israel’s military said on Monday it had begun encouraging residents of Rafah to evacuate the southern Gazan city as part of a ‘limited scope’ operation, but did not immediately confirm media reports this was part of preparation for a ground assault.”

May 8 Update: Several reports suggest the Kerem Shalom crossing has reopened today (here and here). The Rafah gateway is the site of ongoing military operations (here and here).

The Financial Times reports, “The flow of crucial food and medicine into the Gaza Strip — already severely constricted by eight months of war — has slowed to a trickle after Israeli troops moved into Rafah this week and halted traffic at two major border crossings. The UN has only 15,000 litres of fuel left for generators — including those in hospitals — and vehicles in southern Gaza, less than 10 per cent of daily demand, said Scott Anderson, senior deputy director at the UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinians in Gaza. After nearly three days of disrupted humanitarian aid convoys, warehouses will run out of flour and ready-to-eat meals within days, he said.” (More and more and more.)

“Construction of the floating pier and causeway has now been “completed”, according to the Department of Defense. Near-shore and on-shore anchoring is dependent on weather conditions which are forecast to improve through Saturday (here and here).

May 11 Update: The original post above was published on April 30. April was the best month for inbound volumes to Gaza since October. May will almost certainly be the worst. The IDF (COGAT) reports some continued deliveries. The United Nations reports that the last truck entered Gaza on May 5 (more). This morning, the Independent (UK) reports, “… the United Nations warned that food supplies in the southern Gaza region where Israel intends to conduct another ground attack “will run out tomorrow”. The shortages have been caused by Israel’s closure of two crossings in the south through which humanitarian aid was being moved into Gaza. They are currently being blocked by Israeli forces ahead of a ground offensive in Rafah.” According to Reuters and several others, “the military is pressing ahead with its plans for a ground attack on Rafah… Israel has said it will proceed with an incursion into Rafah, where more than 1 million displaced people have sought refuge during the seven-month-old war.” (More and more.)

The Merchant Vessel Sagamore has departed Cyprus for northern Gaza near where floating piers have been constructed (more). According to the US Department of Defense, “One floating pier will be deployed several miles offshore outside Gaza, while the other, called the Trident pier, or “causeway,” will be pushed onto and attached to the Gazan shore. Together they will be used to move humanitarian aid into Gaza.  Both of the floating piers, along with the MV Roy P. Benavidez — a large, medium-speed, roll-on, roll-off ship — are off the coast of Israel near the Port of Ashdod, about 18 miles north of Gaza. Unfavorable sea conditions prevent movement of the piers to their final location. In the meantime, the MV Sagamore — a commercial cargo ship — has been loaded with humanitarian aid in Cyprus and has made its way to Ashdod. Instead of waiting for the piers to be deployed, humanitarian aid on the Sagamore will be moved to the Benavidez so that the Sagamore can go back to Cyprus to get more aid supplies.” I have received conflicting reports on the off-loading of the Sagamore and sea conditions off Gaza.

May 13 Update: The New York Times is reporting, “Six trucks of flour arrived through the Kerem Shalom crossing on Saturday, and on Friday, some fuel also came through the same crossing point, according to Juliette Touma, the communications director for the main U.N. agency that aids Palestinians, UNRWA. She said that no other supplies arrived through Kerem Shalom this past week and that the Rafah crossing remained closed… COGAT said on Sunday that it had opened a new “Western Erez” crossing to allow for more aid to northern Gaza, and that it had coordinated “dozens” of World Food Program trucks carrying flour from the Israeli port of Ashdod. But COGAT did not say whether the flour trucks had entered northern Gaza…” Maritime conditions are available here and here.

May 14 Update: There are now several independent confirmations that more than 400,000 residents of Gaza have relocated since May 6. (here and here). Haaretz reports, “After nearly 100 Israelis blocked and damaged an aid convoy en route to Gaza on Monday, two trucks from the convoy were set ablaze Monday evening in the West Bank. The Israel Police and IDF traded accusations of blame regarding whose responsibility it was to guard the convoy.” (More and more.)

May 16 Update: US Central Command reports that its personnel have, “anchored a temporary pier to the beach in Gaza. As part of this effort, no U.S. troops entered Gaza. Trucks carrying humanitarian assistance are expected to begin moving ashore in the coming days. The United Nations will receive the aid and coordinate its distribution into Gaza.” (More and more.) The BBC reports that, “nearly 100 tonnes of UK aid, consisting of 8,400 “shelter coverage kits” (temporary shelters make up of plastic sheeting) left Cyprus on Wednesday, bound for the temporary pier.” Reuters reports, “a third party will collect the aid from the pier, drive it a short distance and then offload it for U.N. collection. The U.N. official said another third party – contracted by the U.N. – will load the aid on to trucks and take it to distribution points across Gaza.” (In late April the NYT provided a helpful overview of the various hand-offs here.) The United Nations is reporting that over the last week at least 600,000 residents of Rafah have self-evacuated to previously unpopulated areas along the Mediterranean. Supporting these ongoing shifts amplifies the most basic logistical challenges.

May 17 Update: The floating pier and causeway are now in place in mid-Gaza (see photo below and here and here and here). The initial discharge into Gaza via this route involved about a dozen trucks and 300 pallets of goods donated by the United Kingdom (here). According to IDF sources, some land routes saw renewed deliveries this week, including 97 trucks so far today (Sunday) and 84 trucks on Friday (more). Until Friday fewer than forty trucks had been received since May 5. The number of newly displaced persons inside Gaza is now estimated at 800,000.

May 21 Update: The US Department of Defense, Central Command indicates that over 569 tons of goods have now been discharged into Gaza (here and here). It is also reported, “but not all the aid has reached warehouses.” There are troublesome reasons for the diversion of aid from the warehouses. It is also true that delivery to warehouses is not the mission. The mission is to feed hungry people. Linear concepts and methods such as warehouses and well-organized feeding centers are needed — and will be insufficient. Many more creative, non-linear, channels and techniques are needed to advance this difficult, treacherous, and urgent mission. (Additional links on this mission-gap: here and here and here and here.)

Soldiers putting in place the pier