US military says Gaza Strip pier project is completed, aid to soon flow as Israel-Hamas war rages on

US military says Gaza Strip pier project is completed, aid to soon flow as Israel-Hamas war rages on
This handout picture courtesy of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) taken on April 26, 2024 shows construction work on the floating JLOTS pier in the Mediterranean Sea, which will support the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and partners to receive and deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Updated 16 May 2024
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US military says Gaza Strip pier project is completed, aid to soon flow as Israel-Hamas war rages on

US military says Gaza Strip pier project is completed, aid to soon flow as Israel-Hamas war rages on
  • Overnight construction sets up a complicated delivery process more than two months after US President Joe Biden ordered it to help Palestinians facing starvation

WASHINGTON: The US military finished installing a floating pier for the Gaza Strip on Thursday, with officials poised to begin ferrying badly needed humanitarian aid into the enclave besieged over seven months of intense fighting in the Israel-Hamas war.
The final, overnight construction sets up a complicated delivery process more than two months after US President Joe Biden ordered it to help Palestinians facing starvation as food and other supplies fail to make it in as Israel recently seized the key Rafah border crossing in its push on that southern city on the Egyptian border.
Fraught with logistical, weather and security challenges, the maritime route is designed to bolster the amount of aid getting into the Gaza Strip, but it is not considered a substitute for far cheaper land-based deliveries that aid agencies say are much more sustainable. The boatloads of aid will be deposited at a port facility built by the Israelis just southwest of Gaza City and then distributed by aid groups.
US troops will not set foot in Gaza, American officials insist, though they acknowledge the danger of operating near the war zone.
Heavy fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants on the outskirts of Rafah has displaced some 600,000 people, a quarter of Gaza’s population, UN officials say. Another 100,000 civilians have fled parts of northern Gaza now that the Israeli military has restarted combat operations there.
Pentagon officials said the fighting in Gaza wasn’t threatening the new shoreline aid distribution area, but they have made it clear that security conditions will be monitored closely and could prompt a shutdown of the maritime route, even just temporarily. Already, the site has been targeted by mortar fire during its construction and Hamas has threatened to target any foreign forces who “occupy” the Gaza Strip.
The “protection of US forces participating is a top priority. And as such, in the last several weeks, the United States and Israel have developed an integrated security plan to protect all the personnel who are working,” said Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, a deputy commander at the US military’s Central Command. “We are confident in the ability of this security arrangement to protect those involved.”
Israeli forces will be in charge of security on the shore, but there are also two US Navy warships near the area in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the USS Arleigh Burke and the USS Paul Ignatius. Both ships are destroyers equipped with a wide range of weapons and capabilities to protect American troops off shore and allies on the beach.
Aid agencies say they are running out of food in southern Gaza and fuel is dwindling, which will force hospitals to shut down critical operations and halt truck deliveries of aid. The United Nations and other agencies have warned for weeks that an Israel assault on Rafah, which is on the border with Egypt near the main aid entry points, would cripple humanitarian operations and cause a disastrous surge in civilian casualties.
More than 1.4 million Palestinians — half of Gaza’s population — have been sheltering in Rafah, most after fleeing Israel’s offensives elsewhere.
The first cargo ship loaded with 475 pallets of food left Cyprus last week to rendezvous with a US military ship, the Roy P. Benavidez, which is off the coast of Gaza. The pallets of aid on the MV Sagamore were moved onto the Benavidez. The Pentagon said moving the aid between ships was an effort to be ready so it could flow quickly once the pier and the causeway were installed.
The installation of the pier several miles (kilometers) off the coast and of the causeway, which is now anchored to the beach, was delayed for nearly two weeks because of bad weather and high seas. The sea conditions made it too dangerous for US and Israeli troops to secure the causeway to the shore and do other final assembly work, US officials said.
According to a defense official, the Sagamore’s initial shipment was estimated to provide enough to feed 11,000 people for one month. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details not yet made public.
Military leaders have said the deliveries of aid will begin slowly to ensure the system works. They will start with about 90 truckloads of aid a day through the sea route, and that number will quickly grow to about 150 a day. But aid agencies say that isn’t enough to avert impending famine in Gaza and must be just one part of a broader Israeli effort to open land corridors.
Biden used his State of the Union address on March 7 to order the military to set up a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza, establishing a sea route to deliver food and other aid. Food shipments have been backed up at land crossings amid Israeli restrictions and intensifying fighting.
Under the new sea route, humanitarian aid is dropped off in Cyprus where it will undergo inspection and security checks at Larnaca port. It is then loaded onto ships — mainly commercial vessels — and taken about 200 miles (320 kilometers) to the large floating pier built by the US military off the Gaza coast.
There, the pallets are transferred onto trucks, driven onto smaller Army boats and then shuttled several miles (kilometers) to the floating causeway, which has been anchored onto the beach by the Israeli military. The trucks, which are being driven by personnel from another country, will go down the causeway into a secure area on land where they will drop off the aid and immediately turn around and return to the boats.
Aid groups will collect the supplies for distribution on shore, with the UN working with the US Agency for International Development to set up the logistics hub on the beach.
Sabrina Singh, Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters that the project will cost at least $320 million, including the transportation of the equipment and pier sections from the United States to the coast of Gaza, as well as the construction and aid delivery operations.


4 Indian soldiers are killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels in disputed Kashmir

4 Indian soldiers are killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels in disputed Kashmir
Updated 4 sec ago
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4 Indian soldiers are killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels in disputed Kashmir

4 Indian soldiers are killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels in disputed Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Four Indian soldiers were killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels fighting against Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir, the Indian military said Tuesday.
The soldiers were killed late Monday when they were fired at by militants hiding in the forests of southern Doda district in Jammu division, the Indian military said in a statement on the X social media platform. Government forces had been conducting a search based on intelligence input when the shooting occurred.
No insurgent group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack was the latest in a flurry of violence in the region. Last week, five soldiers were killed in the nearby Kathua district when suspected rebels ambushed an army vehicle. In June, nine people were killed when suspected militants fired at a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims.
Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Indian-controlled Kashmir’s independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
New Delhi insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the territory in its entirety.


Indian troops battle gunmen in Kashmir, several wounded

Indian troops battle gunmen in Kashmir, several wounded
Updated 21 min 32 sec ago
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Indian troops battle gunmen in Kashmir, several wounded

Indian troops battle gunmen in Kashmir, several wounded
  • The army has given no details of casualties and there was no official confirmation of deaths
  • Indian media widely reported five soldiers had been “critically” wounded, PTI news agency says four dead

New Delhi: Troops in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir hunted Tuesday for militants after several soldiers were critically wounded in ferocious gunbattles, with Indian media reporting four had died.

Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947, and the disputed northern territory has suffered an uptick in attacks in the past two months

The Indian army’s 16 Corps said security forces had launched an operation Monday evening in Doda district.

“Contact with terrorists was established...(a) heavy firefight ensued,” it said in a statement. “Initial reports suggest injuries to our bravehearts.”

The army gave no further details of casualties, and there was no official confirmation of deaths.

But Indian media widely reported five soldiers had been “critically” wounded, and the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported on Tuesday that four later died of their wounds.

The army said “additional troops” had been brought in.

“Operations are continuing,” it added.

The clashes come a day after the Indian army killed three suspected militants in Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday.

India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full and have fought multiple conflicts for control of the Himalayan region.

New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of stoking militancy and espionage to undermine each other.

Rebel groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers, and rebels.

Earlier this month, gunmen killed five soldiers after ambushing an army convoy, and two other soldiers and six suspected militants were killed in separate clashes.

In June, nine Indian Hindu pilgrims were killed and dozens wounded when a gunman opened fire on a bus carrying them from a shrine in the southern Reasi area.

It was one of the deadliest attacks in years and the first on Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir since 2017 when gunmen killed seven people in another ambush on a bus.


Three hikers die in Utah parks as temperature hit triple-digits

Three hikers die in Utah parks as temperature hit triple-digits
Updated 16 July 2024
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Three hikers die in Utah parks as temperature hit triple-digits

Three hikers die in Utah parks as temperature hit triple-digits
  • Father and daughter who got lost on a strenuous hike in Canyonlands National Park found dead
  • Tourists continue to flock to parks in Utah and other southwestern states during the hottest months of the year

SALT LAKE CITY: Three hikers died over the weekend in suspected heat-related cases at state and national parks in Utah, including a father and daughter who got lost on a strenuous hike in Canyonlands National Park in triple-digit temperatures.
The daughter, 23, and her father, 52, sent a 911 text alerting dispatchers that they were lost and had run out of water while hiking the 13 kilometers Syncline Loop, described by the National Park Service as the most challenging trail in the Island in the Sky district of the southeast Utah park. The pair set out Friday to navigate steep switchbacks and scramble through boulder fields with limited trail markers as the air temperature surpassed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).
Park rangers and a helicopter crew with the Bureau of Land Management began their search for the lost hikers in the early evening Friday, but found them already dead. The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office identified them on Monday as Albino Herrera Espinoza and his daughter, Beatriz Herrera, of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Due to the jagged terrain, safety officials used a helicopter to airlift the bodies out of the park and to the state medical examiner on Saturday morning, according to the sheriff’s office. Their deaths are being investigated as heat-related by the local sheriff and the National Park Service.
Later Saturday, first responders in southwest Utah responded to a call about two hikers “suffering from a heat related incident” at Snow Canyon State Park, which is known for its lava tubes, sand dunes and a canyon carved from red and white Navajo Sandstone.
A multi-agency search team found and treated two hikers who were suffering from heat exhaustion. While they were treating those individuals, a passing hiker informed them of an unconscious person nearby. First responders found the 30-year-old woman dead, public safety officials said.
Her death is being investigated by the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department. She has not been identified publicly.
Tourists continue to flock to parks in Utah and other southwestern states during the hottest months of the year, even as officials caution that hiking in extreme heat poses serious health risks.
Three hikers have died in the past month at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, where summer temperatures on exposed parts of the trails can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). A 50-year-old man from Texas died on July 7 while trying to reach the South Rim. Weeks earlier, a 69-year-old man collapsed and died while hiking in the sweltering heat, and a 41-year-old who had spent the night at the bottom of the canyon was found dead not far from his campsite. Temperatures deep within the Grand Canyon can rise into the triple digits during the summer.
A motorcyclist died earlier this month in Death Valley National Park in eastern California, and another motorcyclist was taken to a hospital for severe heat illness. Both were part of a group that rode through the Badwater Basin area amid scorching weather.
The air temperature in Death Valley reached at least 125 degrees Fahrenheit (52 degrees Celsius) for nine consecutive days July 4-12 — the park’s longest streak at or above that temperature since the early 1900s, the National Park Service announced Monday. Now, parts of the park are experiencing a multiday power outage triggered by a thunderstorm as temperatures continue to linger just above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Elsewhere on Monday, authorities said a 61-year-old man was found dead inside his motor home in eastern Washington state. The man likely died Wednesday when the temperature in the area reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius), Franklin County Coroner Curtis McGary said.
Authorities also suspected heat in the death of an 81-year-old man Saturday in Oregon but have released no further details. His death brings the state’s tally of suspected heat-related deaths to 17 since the July 4 weekend, The Oregonian/Oregonlive.com reported.


Elon Musk pledges $45 million a month to fund Donald Trump election

Elon Musk pledges $45 million a month to fund Donald Trump election
Updated 16 July 2024
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Elon Musk pledges $45 million a month to fund Donald Trump election

Elon Musk pledges $45 million a month to fund Donald Trump election
  • Tech billionaire’s donations will go to a political group dubbed America PAC
  • Tesla founder formally endorsed Trump’s candidacy for US president on Saturday

WASHINGTON: Tech billionaire Elon Musk said he plans to commit roughly $45 million each month to a new fund backing Donald Trump for US president, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Musk’s donations will go to a political group dubbed America PAC, which will focus on promoting voter registration, early voting and mail-in ballots among residents in swing states ahead of the November general election, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Musk is one of several major backers of the new fund, with others reportedly including Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, former US ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft and cryptocurrency investors Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss.
The Tesla founder formally endorsed Trump’s candidacy for US president on Saturday after the former president survived a shooting at a political rally in Butler, Pennsylvania.
“I fully endorse President Trump and hope for his rapid recovery,” Musk wrote on the social media platform X, which he acquired in 2022.
Musk, the wealthiest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $250 billion, has grown increasingly friendly with Trump over the course of the 2024 US election.
In March, the two met in person during a donor breakfast hosted at the Florida residence of billionaire Nelson Peltz.
Though individual campaign donations in the United States are capped at $3,300 per person, loopholes in the campaign finance system allow political mega donors to contribute to funds known as political action committees or “PACs,” which support candidates.
Trump previously decried mail and absentee voting, but has backtracked on his criticisms after it became clear Democrats had an edge among mail voters.


Trump, ear bandaged, appears at Republican National Convention

Trump, ear bandaged, appears at Republican National Convention
Updated 16 July 2024
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Trump, ear bandaged, appears at Republican National Convention

Trump, ear bandaged, appears at Republican National Convention

MILWAUKEE: Two days after surviving an attempted assassination, former President Donald Trump appeared triumphantly at the Republican National Convention’s opening night with a bandage over his right ear, the latest compelling scene in a presidential campaign already defined by dramatic turns.
GOP delegates cheered wildly when Trump appeared onscreen backstage and then emerged in the arena, visibly emotional, as musician Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the USA.” That was hours after the convention had formally nominated the former president to head the Republican ticket in November against President Joe Biden.
Trump did not address the hall — with his acceptance speech scheduled for Thursday — but smiled silently and occasionally waved as Greenwood sang. He eventually joined his newly announced running mate, Ohio Sen. JD Vance, to listen to the night’s remaining speeches, often with a subdued expression and muted reactions uncharacteristic for the unabashed showman
The raucous welcome underscored the depth of the crowd’s affection for the man who won the 2016 nomination as an outsider, at odds with the party establishment, but now has vanquished all Republican rivals, silenced most GOP critics and commands loyalty up and down the party ranks.
“We must unite as a party, and we must unite as a nation,” said Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley, Trump’s handpicked party leader, as he opened Monday’s primetime national convention session. “We must show the same strength and resilience as President Trump and lead this nation to a greater future.”
But Whatley and other Republican leaders made clear that their calls for harmony did not extend to Biden and Democrats, who find themselves still riven by worries that the 81-year-old question is not up to the job of defeating Trump.
“Their policies are a clear and present danger to America, to our institutions, our values and our people,” said Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, welcoming the party to his battleground state, which Trump won in 2016 but lost to Biden four years ago.
Saturday’s shooting at a Pennsylvania rally, where Trump was injured and one man died, were clearly in mind, but the proceedings were celebratory — a stark contrast to the anger and anxiety that had marked the previous few days. Some delegates chanted “fight, fight, fight” — the same words that Trump was seen shouting to the crowd as the Secret Service ushered him off the stage, his fist raised and face bloodied.
“We should all be thankful right now that we are able to cast our votes for President Donald J. Trump after what took place on Saturday,” said New Jersey state Sen. Michael Testa as he announced all of his state’s 12 delegates for Trump.
When Trump cleared the necessary number of delegates, video screens in the arena read “OVER THE TOP” while the song “Celebration” played and delegates danced and waved Trump signs. Throughout the voting, delegates flanked by “Make America Great Again” signs applauded as state after state voted their support for a second Trump term.
Multiple speakers invoked religious imagery to discuss Trump and the assassination attempt.
“The devil came to Pennsylvania holding a rifle,” said Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. “But an American lion got back up on his feet!”
Wyoming delegate Sheryl Foland was among those who adopted the “fight” chant after seeing Trump survive Saturday in what she called “monumental photos and video.”
“We knew then we were going to adopt that as our chant,” added Foland, a child trauma mental health counselor. “Not just because we wanted him to fight, and that God was fighting for him. We thought, isn’t it our job to accept that challenge and fight for our country?”
“It’s bigger than Trump,” Foland said. “It’s a mantra for our country.”
Another well-timed development boosted the mood on the convention floor Monday: The federal judge presiding over Trump’s classified documents case dismissed the prosecution because of concerns over the appointment of the prosecutor who brought the case, handing the former president a major court victory.
The convention is designed to reach people outside the GOP base
Trump’s campaign chiefs designed the convention to feature a softer and more optimistic message, focusing on themes that would help a divisive leader expand his appeal among moderate voters and people of color.
On a night devoted to the economy, delegates and a national TV audience heard from speakers the Trump campaign pitched as “everyday Americans” — a single mother talking about inflation, a union member who identified himself as a lifelong Democrat now backing Trump, a small business owner, among others.
Featured speakers also included Black Republicans who have been at the forefront of the Trump campaign’s effort to win more votes from a core Democratic constituency.
US Rep. Wesley Hunt of Texas said rising grocery and energy prices were hurting Americans’ wallets and quoted Ronald Reagan in calling inflation “the cruelest tax on the poor.” Hunt argued Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris didn’t seem to understand the problem.
“We can fix this disaster,” Hunt said, by electing Trump and sending “him right back to where he belongs, the White House.”
Scott, perhaps the party’s most well-known Black lawmaker, declared: “America is not a racist country.”
Republicans hailed Vance’s selection as a key step toward a winning coalition in November.
Trump announced his choice of his running mate as delegates were voting on the former president’s nomination Monday. The young Ohio senator first rose to national attention with his best-selling memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” which told of his Appalachian upbringing and was hailed as a window into the parts of working-class America that helped propel Trump.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who had been considered a potential vice presidential pick, said in a post on X that Vance’s “small town roots and service to country make him a powerful voice for the America First Agenda.”
Yet despite calls for harmony, two of the opening speakers at Monday’s evening session — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and North Carolina gubernatorial nominee Mark Robinson — are known as some of the party’s most incendiary figures.
Robinson, speaking recently during a church service in North Carolina, discussed “evil” people who he said threatened American Christianity. “Some folks need killing,” he said then, though he steered clear of such rhetoric at the convention stage.
The campaign continues
Trump’s nomination came on the same day that Biden sat for another national TV interview the president sought to demonstrate his capacity to serve another four years despite continued worries within his own party.
Biden told ABC News that he made a mistake recently when he told Democratic donors the party must stop questioning his fitness for office and instead put Trump in a “bullseye.” Republicans have circulated the comment aggressively since Saturday’s assassination attempt, with some openly blaming Biden for inciting the attack on Trump’s life.
The president’s admission was in line with his call Sunday from the Oval Office for all Americans to ratchet down political rhetoric. But Biden maintained Monday that drawing contrasts with Trump, who employs harsh and accusatory language, is a legitimate part of a presidential contest.
Inside the arena in Milwaukee, Republicans did not dial back their attacks on Biden, at one point playing a video that mocked the president’s physical stamina and mental acuity.
They alluded often to the “Biden-Harris administration” and took regular digs at Vice President Kamala Harris — a not-so-subtle allusion to the notion that Biden could step aside in favor of his second-in-command.