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Fear Is Rising US Pier Will Be Used For Forced Displacement Of Palestinians

Above photo: A ship transporting international humanitarian aid is moored at the US-built Trident Pier near Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on May 21, 2024. Stringer/APA Images.

Critics warn the U.S.-constructed pier off Gaza’s coast is being used for military purposes.

Now a source in the Gaza resistance says there are indications it will be used to facilitate the forced displacement of Palestinians.

In March 2024, U.S. President Joe Biden announced in his State of the Union address that the U.S. would be building a temporary “floating pier” on the Gaza shoreline to deliver humanitarian aid to the starving population in Gaza. “No U.S. boots will be on the ground,” he promised.

Since then, however, critics have raised concerns that the pier is not only being used for “humanitarian” purposes but is being employed for military activities that aid in the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza.

An intelligence source from within the resistance in Gaza, who spoke to Mondoweiss under conditions of anonymity, says there are mounting signs the U.S. pier could also be used to forcibly displace Palestinians. This would provide an alternative to the original Israeli plan of forcing Palestinians into the Sinai, which was rejected by Egypt early on in the war.

“The floating pier project is an American solution to the displacement dilemma in Gaza,” the source said. “It goes beyond both the Israeli solution of displacing Gazans into Sinai…and the Egyptian suggestion of displacing [Gazans] into the Naqab [desert].”

Instead, the source said, the U.S. pier would be used to facilitate the displacement of Gazans to Cyprus, and then eventually to Lebanon or Europe.

These concerns have been brought into sharp relief after the Israeli army committed a massacre in Nuseirat refugee camp last weekend, killing at least 274 Palestinians in order to retrieve four Israeli captives.

The U.S. pier was at the center of coverage of the massacre, as multiple news sources, videos, and eyewitness accounts from Gaza indicated that U.S. forces may have been involved in the operation and that humanitarian trucks entering Nuseirat were hiding the Israeli soldiers that carried out the massacre. Live Aljazeera footage depicted what appeared to be a humanitarian truck driving through the camp accompanied by two armored military vehicles, while other videos circulated showing Israeli soldiers using a helicopter allegedly in the area of the U.S. floating pier as an evacuation point, taking advantage of U.S. air defenses.

The claim was quickly dismissed by U.S. Central Command, but Palestinian factions such as the Popular Resistance Committees said it would be treating the pier as a military target moving forward. Following the accusations and the threats, the UN’s World Food Programme has suspended aid deliveries through the pier, citing concerns over the security of the WFP team.

‘Humanitarianism’ Covering Up Ethnic Cleansing?

The anonymous resistance source told Mondoweiss that “according to our intelligence, the pier will be used to displace Palestinians to Cyprus through evacuation ships and then to Lebanon after undergoing a screening process.”

The source asserted that this plan has already been discussed with Lebanese authorities, and that “it was agreed with Najib Mikati, the Lebanese Prime Minister,  to receive $1 billion in aid to Lebanon to be paid through the European Union, with an additional $250 million to be paid to his own companies.”

In exchange, Lebanon would receive “between 100,000 and 200,000 Gaza residents through the floating pier via Cyprus, which is expected to take place during the fall this year,” the source said.

According to the source, the background to this alleged arrangement is part of a broader “pressure cooker” strategy being enacted on the people of Gaza, “starting with the halting of money transfers as of last Ramadan and continuing with the current Israeli control over and closure of the Rafah crossing until such a time that an American company can take over, as well as the demoralization of the resistance through continuous operations, which is to be followed by allowing an acceptable number of people into Egypt through the Rafah crossing via the Hala Consulting and Tourism company, in order to be naturalized in accordance with the new Egyptian citizenship law.”

The next step in this process would then supposedly follow, in which a few hundred thousand Gazans would be transferred from Gaza to Cyprus. Notably, the U.S. is already using Cyprus to load humanitarian aid into cargo ships and transport it to the pier.

“They are expected to leave for Cyprus in waves and to mix with other illegal immigrants from Syria, after which they will either be assisted in making the journey of illegal migration to Europe — which is opposed by the European Union — or they will be sent to Tripoli and replace the Syrian refugees there, in accordance with the wishes of the Lebanese government,” the source continued. “They would then be resettled in northern Lebanon or Lebanon’s Sunni areas, far away from areas of Hezbollah influence and control.”

The source emphasized that such a scenario is not without precedent, as previous waves of Palestinian immigrants tied to Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, a rival of PA president Mahmoud Abbas, have been settled in Lebanon in the past.

“Previously, there has been animosity between newer waves [of immigrants] and previous Palestinian groups loyal to the resistance,” the source explained. “This has led to conflict in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon in the past.”

Finally, the source also stated that alleviating the Syrian crisis and striking a deal with Bashar al-Asad to ease punitive measures for potential Syrian returnees who may have been part of the opposition would help make the prospect of an influx of Gaza refugees more palatable for the Lebanese government, especially if it is tied to an influx of monetary assistance to Lebanon’s faltering economy. Notably, several reports have already emerged that many Syrian refugees are at imminent risk of forcible deportation, and hundreds have already returned amid anti-refugee sentiment in Lebanon.

Mondoweiss has been unable to verify the claims relayed by the anonymous source regarding the potential plan.

Notably, however, Lebanon has been used in the past on a smaller scale for receiving political exiles from Palestine, as in the case of the deportation of 415 Palestinian men affiliated with political factions such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad in 1992, when they were exiled to a no-man’s-land in between northern Palestine and southern Lebanon called Marj al-Zuhur.

Mounting Widespread Concern

Regardless of whether such a plan comes to pass, different political factions in Gaza have expressed concern regarding the intentions behind the pier, while others have cautiously welcomed it despite reservations.

Hamas welcomed the U.S. project and the efforts to aid Palestinians, but it also emphasized that the pier would not be a reliable alternative to aid through land-based crossings, which is more efficient. Many international organizations have also echoed these concerns, confirming that aid through land crossings remains the most reliable and efficient option. Hamas has also rejected the presence of any foreign military force as part of the pier’s operations.

Other Palestinian political parties such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have come out more strongly against the pier, raising alarms about its potential misuse for the forced displacement of Palestinians or protecting Israeli forces occupying Gaza. The PFLP warned Arabs, internationals, and Palestinians from working on the pier and asserted any troops deployed with the pier would be dealt with as an occupying force.

Likely due to these fears, the pier has already been subject to mortar shell attacks. This is likely a message sent by Palestinian resistance factions that they are ready to deal with the pier militarily if it is used for military purposes rather than for delivering aid.

Since its introduction, the pier has experienced a series of challenges and setbacks. Part of it came loose due to sea conditions, and some of its staff were injured while operating it in unclear circumstances. The pier had to be taken for maintenance just weeks after it was deployed and was relocated back off Gaza a few days ago.

Once fully operational and at full capacity, the pier is expected to deliver 150 trucks into Gaza daily. However, as of this writing, the World Food Programme has continued suspending aid delivery due to the aforementioned safety concerns for WFP teams.

While the U.S. has continuously reasserted its purely “humanitarian” aims, the circumstances surrounding the pier’s creation, including the exclusion of Palestinians from its management, the involvement of Israel in its security, and now the recent suspected U.S. role in the Nuseirat massacre, has all reinforced suspicions among Palestinians concerning the true intentions behind the pier.

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