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Ship seen off the Gaza coast yesterday near a U.S.-built floating pier that will be used to facilitate aid deliveries Alamy Stock Photo
Floating Pier

Bodies of three hostages found in Gaza as Taoiseach expresses 'deep concern' to Israeli President

The first aid arrived at a newly constructed floating pier on the Gaza coast today.

LAST UPDATE | 17 May

TRUCKS CARRYING BADLY-NEEDED aid for the Gaza Strip have rolled across a newly-built US floating pier into the besieged enclave for the first time as Taoiseach Simon Harris told Israeli President Isaac Herzog he has “deep concern” over the planned invasion of Rafah city. 

Also today, the Israeli military (IDF) said it had recovered the bodies of three hostages who were taken in the Hamas-led attack on 7 October last year. A military spokesperson said they had been “murdered”. 

“Last night, the Israel Defence Forces rescued the bodies of our hostages Shani Louk, Amit Buskila and Itzhak Gelerenter, who were taken hostage during the Hamas massacre on 7 October and murdered,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a televised address.

All three were killed by Hamas while fleeing the Nova music festival, an outdoor dance party near the Gaza border, where militants killed hundreds of people, Hagari said at a news conference.

The three people named were a 28-year-old woman, Amit Buskila, and a 56-year-old man, Itzhak Gelerenter, and a 22-year-old woman, Shani Louk.

The IDF said the bodies were found overnight, without elaborating, and did not give immediate details on where they were located.

Out of the 252 people taken hostage that day, 125 are still being held inside the Gaza Strip, including 37 the army says are dead.

“This terrible loss is heart-breaking… We will return all of our hostages, the living and the deceased alike,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement after the announcement.

Netanyahu has been heavily criticised by many of the families of people taken captive, who say he has not prioritised securing their return.

The Hostages Families Forum said the recovery of the bodies was a “painful and stark reminder that we must swiftly bring back all our brothers and sisters from their cruel captivity”.

Louk, an Israeli-German dual national, was identified in online videos showing a woman lying face down in the back of a pick-up truck filled with armed men, before being announced dead later in October.

The last sign of life of Buskila, who was also captured while partying at the Nova festival, was a call to her uncle Shimon, who heard his niece beg her kidnappers not to take her away.

israel-palestinians-hostages This combo from photos provided by Hostages Families Forum Headquarters shows from left, Itzik Gelernter, Shani Louk and Amit Buskila. AP AP

US pier

Today’s shipment to the US-made pier is the first in an operation that American military officials anticipate could scale up to 150 truckloads a day entering the Gaza Strip as Israel presses in on the southern city of Rafah as its seven-month campaign rages on.

Barely any aid has entered the Gaza Strip since Israel took control of the Rafah crossing on the border between Palestine and Egypt and shut it down. 

US officials and aid groups warned the pier project is not considered a substitute for land deliveries that could bring in all the food, water and fuel needed in Gaza.

Before the war, more than 500 truckloads entered Gaza on an average day.

The operation’s success also remains tenuous due to the risk of attack, logistical hurdles and a growing shortage of fuel for the trucks to run due to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Hours after the pier was finished, the Pentagon said humanitarian aid would soon begin flowing and that no back-ups were expected in the distribution process, which is being coordinated by the United Nations (UN).

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, local health officials say, while hundreds more have been killed in the Occupied West Bank.

‘Deep concern’ 

The first shipments of aid onto the pier coincides with a phone call between Taoiseach Simon Harris and President of Israel Isaac Herzog, where Harris outlined Ireland’s position on the conflict.

Speaking to Herzog today, Harris said that he expressed “deep concern” about the potential for “catastrophe” in Rafah as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to threaten a violent offensive against the city where over one million Palestinians have been displaced.

Harris told Herzog – whose remarks have been submitted as evidence of genocidal intent in South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice – that there was a need for an immediate ceasefire and the urgent and unhindered access to humanitarian aid.

Harris also said Ireland’s view is that peace and security for Israel and Palestine can only be built on a two-state solution. He informed the Israeli President of Ireland’s intention to recognise Palestine, which is expected to happen before the end of this month. 

the-image-provided-by-u-s-central-command-shows-u-s-army-soldiers-assigned-to-the-7th-transportation-brigade-expeditionary-u-s-navy-sailors-assigned-to-amphibious-construction-battalion-1-and Overhead image of the newly-built pier off the Gaza coast Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Fuel shortages

The UN said fuel deliveries brought through land routes have all but stopped and this will make it extremely difficult to get the aid from the US military pier to people in Gaza.

“We desperately need fuel,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. “It doesn’t matter how the aid comes, whether it’s by sea or whether by land, without fuel, aid won’t get to the people.”

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said the issue of fuel deliveries comes up in all US conversations with the Israelis.

She also said the plan is to begin slowly with the sea route and ramp up the truck deliveries over time as they work the kinks out of the system.

Aid agencies say they are running out of food in southern Gaza and fuel is dwindling while the US Agency for International Development and the World Food Program say famine has taken hold in Gaza’s north.

Israel asserts it places no limits on the entry of humanitarian aid and blames the UN for delays in distributing goods entering Gaza.

The UN says fighting, Israeli fire and chaotic security conditions have hindered delivery.

Israel also claims Hamas will use the fuel in its fight against Israeli troops.

Under pressure from the US, Israel has in recent weeks opened a pair of crossings to deliver aid into northern Gaza and said a series of Hamas attacks at the main crossing, Kerem Shalom, have disrupted the flow of goods.

There have also been violent protests by Israelis disrupting aid shipments, beating drivers and throwing food on the ground.

The boatloads of aid will be deposited at a port facility built by the Israelis just south-west of Gaza City and then distributed by aid groups.

US officials said the initial shipment totalled as much as 500 tons of aid.

The US has closely coordinated with Israel on how to protect the ships and personnel working on the beach and has said that no US troops will be present in Gaza. 

With reporting from Press Association and AFP.

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