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The Latest | US-built pier in Gaza unloads aid again after weather setback, official says

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The Latest | US-built pier in Gaza unloads aid again after weather setback, official says
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The Latest | US-built pier in Gaza unloads aid again after weather setback, official says

2024-06-21 05:27 Last Updated At:05:31

The U.S. military-built pier in Gaza was unloading humanitarian aid again Thursday after being removed for a second time last week because of rough seas, the U.S. military said. The floating pier was re-anchored to Gaza’s shoreline on Wednesday after facing a number of setbacks.

Aid groups have decried the plan to bring aid to Gaza by sea as a distraction that took pressure off Israel to open more land border crossings, which are far more productive at bringing aid into Gaza as Palestinians are facing widespread hunger.

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Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip sit at a makeshift tent camp in Khan Younis, Gaza, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

The U.S. military-built pier in Gaza was unloading humanitarian aid again Thursday after being removed for a second time last week because of rough seas, the U.S. military said. The floating pier was re-anchored to Gaza’s shoreline on Wednesday after facing a number of setbacks.

FILE - Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, Thursday, March 14, 2024. A persistent breakdown in law and order is rendering an aid route in south Gaza unusable, the UN and NGOs say, days after Israel's military said it would pause combat there to help aid reach desperate Palestinians. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, File)

FILE - Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, Thursday, March 14, 2024. A persistent breakdown in law and order is rendering an aid route in south Gaza unusable, the UN and NGOs say, days after Israel's military said it would pause combat there to help aid reach desperate Palestinians. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, File)

FILE - Palestinians storm rucks loaded with humanitarian aid brought in through a new U.S.-built pier, in the central Gaza Strip, Saturday, May 18, 2024. A persistent breakdown in law and order is rendering an aid route in south Gaza unusable, the UN and NGOs say, days after Israel's military said it would pause combat there to help aid reach desperate Palestinians. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana, File)

FILE - Palestinians storm rucks loaded with humanitarian aid brought in through a new U.S.-built pier, in the central Gaza Strip, Saturday, May 18, 2024. A persistent breakdown in law and order is rendering an aid route in south Gaza unusable, the UN and NGOs say, days after Israel's military said it would pause combat there to help aid reach desperate Palestinians. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana, File)

FILE - A ship is seen off the coast of Gaza near a U.S.-built floating pier that will be used to facilitate aid deliveries, as seen from the central Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. U.S. officials said Friday, June 14, 2024, that the pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for the second time in a month due to rough seas, raising questions about the viability of the sea route. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana, File)

FILE - A ship is seen off the coast of Gaza near a U.S.-built floating pier that will be used to facilitate aid deliveries, as seen from the central Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. U.S. officials said Friday, June 14, 2024, that the pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for the second time in a month due to rough seas, raising questions about the viability of the sea route. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana, File)

FILE - This image provided by U.S. Central Command, shows the U.S.-built floating pier being used to facilitate aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. U.S. officials said Friday, June 14, 2024, that the pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for the second time in a month due to rough seas, raising questions about the viability of the sea route. (U.S. Central Command via AP, File)

FILE - This image provided by U.S. Central Command, shows the U.S.-built floating pier being used to facilitate aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. U.S. officials said Friday, June 14, 2024, that the pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for the second time in a month due to rough seas, raising questions about the viability of the sea route. (U.S. Central Command via AP, File)

A Palestinian girl stands at the entrance of her family tent at a makeshift tent camp for those displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip in Khan Younis, Gaza, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

A Palestinian girl stands at the entrance of her family tent at a makeshift tent camp for those displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip in Khan Younis, Gaza, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

Buildings are seen in Kiryat Shmona, a city next to border with Lebanon, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Buildings are seen in Kiryat Shmona, a city next to border with Lebanon, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Hussein, son of senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55, who was killed last week by an Israeli strike in south Lebanon, speaks during a ceremony to commemorate the death of his father, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Hussein, son of senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55, who was killed last week by an Israeli strike in south Lebanon, speaks during a ceremony to commemorate the death of his father, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

An Israel flag hangs on an area backdropped by buildings in Kiryat Shmona, a city next to border with Lebanon, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

An Israel flag hangs on an area backdropped by buildings in Kiryat Shmona, a city next to border with Lebanon, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Hezbollah supporters raise their fists and cheer as they watch a speech given by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on a screen during a ceremony to commemorate the death of senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55, who was killed last week by an Israeli strike in south Lebanon, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Hezbollah supporters raise their fists and cheer as they watch a speech given by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on a screen during a ceremony to commemorate the death of senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55, who was killed last week by an Israeli strike in south Lebanon, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

A damaged building, from previous shelling attacks from Lebanon, is seen in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

A damaged building, from previous shelling attacks from Lebanon, is seen in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

In this combination image, Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, speaks on April 13, 2022, in Gaza City, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on June 18, 2024, in Tel Aviv. The fate of the proposed cease-fire deal for Gaza hinges in many ways on Sinwar and Netanyahu. Each faces significant political and personal pressures that may be influencing their decision-making and neither seems in a rush to make concessions to end the war. (AP Photo)

In this combination image, Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, speaks on April 13, 2022, in Gaza City, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on June 18, 2024, in Tel Aviv. The fate of the proposed cease-fire deal for Gaza hinges in many ways on Sinwar and Netanyahu. Each faces significant political and personal pressures that may be influencing their decision-making and neither seems in a rush to make concessions to end the war. (AP Photo)

A man drives his motorcycle past a damaged building, from previous shelling attacks from Lebanon, in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

A man drives his motorcycle past a damaged building, from previous shelling attacks from Lebanon, in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

The United Nations has suspended cooperation with the pier project since June 9, a day after the Israeli military used the area around the pier in a hostage rescue that killed more than 270 Palestinians. The U.S. and Israeli militaries say no part of the pier was used in the raid.

Meanwhile, Israel’s pledge to guard a new aid route into southern Gaza has fallen flat, as the U.N. and international aid organizations say a breakdown in law and order has made that route unusable. The situation has largely paralyzed aid distribution to the south — particularly since Gaza’s nearby Rafah crossing with Egypt was closed when Israel invaded the city early last month.

With Israel’s war against Hamas now in its ninth month, international criticism is growing over the U.S.-backed campaign of systematic destruction in Gaza, at a huge cost in civilian lives.

Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 37,100 people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and basic goods to Gaza, which is now totally dependent on aid groups.

Israel launched the war after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.

Currently:

— The fate of the latest cease-fire proposal hinges on Netanyahu and Hamas’ leader in Gaza.

— Israel’s pledge to guard an aid route into Gaza falls flat as lawlessness blocks distribution.

— A rare public rift appears between Israel’s political and military leadership over how the war in Gaza is being conducted.

— The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group warns archenemy Israel against wider war.

— Hundreds died during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia amid intense heat, officials say.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here's the latest:

WASHINGTON — More than 656 metric tons, or 1.4 million pounds, of aid were delivered through the U.S. military-built pier in Gaza on Thursday in the hours after it resumed operations, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said.

The pier was re-anchored to the beach in Gaza and started operating Wednesday after the military temporarily removed it due to weather, Ryder said. Aid groups have decried the pier as a distraction that took pressure off Israel to open more land border crossings, which are far more productive.

Since the pier opened on May 17, more than 4,100 tons, or 9.1 million pounds, of food and aid have been delivered by sea and unloaded in Gaza. However, much of the aid has lingered in the storage area right by the pier, so although it was provided to Gaza, delivery trucks have not driven it into the people who need it most.

Ryder directed questions about aid distribution to the United Nation’s World Food Program.

The U.N. has suspended cooperation with the U.S.-led pier project since June 9, a day after the Israeli military used the area around the pier in a hostage rescue that killed more than 270 Palestinians.

The U.S. and Israeli militaries say no part of the pier was used in the raid. The U.N. is concerned that any such use — or even a perception of it by fighters and ordinary people in Gaza — makes their continued role in the project untenable.

At issue are the safety of humanitarian workers, and humanitarian groups’ principles of neutrality, the U.N. says.

CAIRO — Hamas says it is planning a legal response against the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants against its top leaders.

Calling the war crimes accusations against three of its top leaders — Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh, and Mohammed Deif — “baseless,” Hamas said it would argue that Palestinians have “the right, indeed the duty, to resist occupation by all means available, including armed resistance.”

Hamas is already considered an international terrorist group by Israel and its Western allies, so it was unclear what the impact of its legal brief would be. Both Sinwar and Deif are believed to be hiding in Gaza. Haniyeh, the supreme leader of the Islamic militant group, is based in Qatar and frequently travels across the region. Qatar is not a member of the ICC.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, said in May he was seeking the arrests of the three Hamas leaders, saying they bore responsibility for the attack on Israel Oct. 7, when the militants killed around 1,200 people and took some 250 hostage.

Khan accused them of eight war crimes, among them rape, torture, taking hostages, and extermination. Khan said the same day he was seeking arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

In its statement Thursday, Hamas cast Khan as biased in Israel’s favor. It said the prosecutor had “erred in considering that the state of conflict began on October 7,” asserting that the conflict began in 1948 with Israel’s establishment.

During the war surrounding Israel’s independence, some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced their homes, an event the Palestinians refer as the “Nakba,” Arabic for catastrophe.

A panel of three judges will decide whether to issue the arrest warrants and allow a case to proceed. The judges typically take two months to make such decisions.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described White House statements regarding his claims that the U.S. is holding up weapons deliveries for Israel as “personal attacks,” but said he would endure these attacks provided Israel gets the munitions.

Earlier Thursday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. is “perplexed” by Netanyahu’s claims earlier this week that the U.S. was holding up the delivery of weapons and creating bottlenecks. Kirby said those claims were incorrect.

Netanyahu, in a statement released by his office, said, “I am ready to suffer personal attacks as long as Israel receives from the United States the ammunition that it needs in the war for its existence.”

Netanyahu has been facing growing domestic political problems, and analysts have said his comments Tuesday on weapons delivery delays were likely aimed to shore up support among his right-wing base in Israel and the country’s supporters in the U.S., and didn’t appear to indicate actual shortages of weapons.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday the only pause in weapons deliveries was related to certain heavy bombs since May.

U.S. President Joe Biden delayed sending the 2,000-pound bombs over concerns about Israel’s killing of civilians in Gaza. Yet the administration has gone to lengths to avoid any suggestion that Israeli forces have crossed a red line in the deepening operation in the southern city of Rafah, which would trigger a more sweeping ban on arms transfers.

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations says it is still assessing whether it's safe for staff to participate in delivering humanitarian aid from the U.S.-built pier on Gaza's coast, which means no aid is being transported from the beach to U.N. warehouses.

There is currently no timeline for completing the assessment, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Thursday. If the U.N. Department of Safety and Security decides the U.N. can resume operations, “then the World Food Program stands ready to do so based on its core principles.”

These core principles — U.N. neutrality and independence in humanitarian activities — were called into question during Israel’s June 8 hostage rescue, which killed more than 270 Palestinians. An Israeli helicopter touched down near the U.S.-built pier and helped whisk away the hostages and an injured Israeli commando, according to the U.S. and Israeli militaries. Both forces deny the pier was used, saying the helicopter landed an unspecified distance south of the causeway.

The U.N. also hasn’t been able to deliver aid using a new route in southern Gaza the Israeli military said it would secure during “tactical pauses,” Haq said.

Fighting may have decreased on the route from the Kerem Shalom crossing to Gaza’s main north-south Salah al-Din road, he said, but there are other impediments and “the lack of public order and safety is a major obstacle and requires concerted efforts and concrete measures to find a solution.”

“We’ve made clear that it’s the responsibility of Israel, the occupying power, to ensure that assistance can reach those who need it the most and to create an enabling environment,” Haq said.

He said the U.N. is is in discussions with Israeli authorities including COGAT, the Israeli military body that oversees aid distribution in Gaza, to provide assurances so people don’t panic and think an aid delivery is a one-time event and rush to convoys trying to take food and other items.

“Many households report having only one meal every day, with some having one meal every two or three days, relying mostly on bread, food sharing with other families and rationing stocks,” he said.

Access to water is “critically low” and people line up for hours to collect it and are forced to rely on seawater for domestic use, Haq said. Communicable illnesses are spreading, sewage is overflowing, there is a proliferation of insects and vermin, and a near total lack of hygiene items.

From June 1-18 there were 61 coordinated U.N. humanitarian missions to northern Gaza, he said. Of those, 28 were facilitated by Israeli authorities, eight were denied access, 16 were impeded, and nine were canceled for logistical, operational or security reasons.

In southern Gaza, he said, the U.N. humanitarian office led assessments at sites for displaced Palestinians from June 7-14 and found people living in overcrowded tents in need of repair that don’t offer any protection from extreme heat.

WASHINGTON — White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Thursday the U.S. remains “perplexed” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims this week that the U.S. was holding up weapons for Israel and creating bottlenecks.

Kirby called the prime minister’s comments “disappointing, especially given that no other country is doing more to help Israel defend itself against the threat by Hamas and, quite frankly, other threats that they’re facing in the region.”

“It was vexing and disappointing to us, as much as it was incorrect. So, difficult to know exactly what was on his mind there,” Kirby told reporters.

Netanyahu’s video message Tuesday comes as he faces growing domestic political problems. Analysts say it likely aimed to shore up support among his right-wing base in Israel as well as the country's supporters in the U.S., and doesn’t appear to indicate on-the-ground shortages of weapons.

The Biden administration has provided crucial military and diplomatic support for Israel throughout the war against Hamas.

President Joe Biden has delayed delivering certain heavy bombs since May over concerns about Israel’s killing of civilians in Gaza. Yet the administration has gone to lengths to avoid any suggestion that Israeli forces have crossed a red line in the deepening operation in the southern city of Rafah, which would trigger a more sweeping ban on arms transfers.

JERUSALEM – Israel remains opposed to allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross access to detention facilities accused of harshly treating Palestinians from Gaza and is working on creating an internal inspection system, state lawyers said Wednesday.

The Red Cross had access to Israeli detention facilities holding Palestinians until Oct. 7, when Israel sealed them off from external observation. Since then, testimonies have mounted from released Palestinians of brutal treatment at the detention centers, where they are held incommunicado and without trial.

The government lawyers wrote that Israeli lawmakers are examining a proposal to form an internal body that would visit the detention facilities, hear prisoners’ complaints and communicate the information to Israeli authorities.

The body is “expected to fulfill the purpose that the Red Cross has fulfilled until now,” the lawyers wrote. They were responding to a coalition of rights groups asking Israel’s highest court to grant the Red Cross access to the detention facilities.

In response, the main rights group petitioning the court said internal Israeli examiners could not substitute for international observers.

“Mounting testimonies reveal Israel has turned its detention facilities into a black hole for Palestinian prisoners enduring appalling conditions,” said the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, adding that the government was “investing a far-fetched mechanism in order to replace the accepted arrangement by the world.”

Since the Hamas attack Oct. 7, Israel has taken at least 4,000 Palestinians from Gaza into custody in Israel, interrogating them for potential ties to the militant group. Over 1,500 have been released, according to state figures.

Hamas has rejected Red Cross appeals to visit some 120 hostages it is believed to be holding. Israel has already pronounced 43 of the hostages dead.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military-built pier in Gaza was unloading humanitarian aid again Thursday after being removed for a second time last week because of rough seas, a U.S. defense official said. The pier was reattached to Gaza’s shoreline on Wednesday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. military operations.

The pier, which cost the U.S. at least $230 million, was meant to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza via the U.N.’s World Food Program. It has faced a number of setbacks, operating for only about a week before getting blown apart by high winds in May. The U.S. military detached the floating causeway and moved it to an Israeli port last week so it wouldn't break apart again.

Aid groups have decried the pier as a distraction that took pressure off Israel to open more border crossings, which are far more productive at bringing aid into Gaza. Israel's war against Hamas has caused widespread devastation and made domestic food production nearly impossible, leaving Gaza totally dependent on aid groups for food, medicine and basic goods. Palestinians are facing widespread hunger.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has suspended its cooperation with the U.S.-led pier project since June 9. U.N. officials say they want to evaluate whether the Israeli military used the area around the pier in a June 8 hostage rescue that killed more than 270 Palestinians, and whether any such use — or even a perception of it by fighters and ordinary people in Gaza — makes their continued role in the project untenable.

The U.S. and Israeli militaries say no part of the pier was used in the raid.

AP writers Lolita C. Baldor and Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this report.

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ Foreign Ministry said Thursday the U.S. military-built pier in Gaza is up and running again after being detached for a second time last week because of rough seas.

Cyprus plays a key role in the pier because a security and inspection station it built screens the international aid destined for Gaza. There was no immediate confirmation from the U.S.

Theodoris Gotsis, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, said the pier and the causeway in Gaza were both functioning. He said over the past 40 days, Cyprus has screened and loaded onto boats some 10,000 tons of aid for Gaza.

The U.S. military detached the causeway last week to prevent it from breaking apart again, as it did late last month when it was hit by bad weather.

The pier, used to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza, has faced a number of setbacks since it was erected. It was operational for only about a week when it was blown apart by high winds in May and then removed again earlier this month.

The U.N.’s World Food Program, one of the main aid agencies to make use of the pier, had paused its distribution of aid coming from it earlier this month over security concerns. WFP could not immediately be reached for comment on whether it was resuming distribution.

NICOSIA, Cyprus — A spokesman for the European Union’s executive arm says any threat against Cyprus is a threat against the bloc’s 26 other member nations.

Peter Stano made the remark Thursday in response to a question regarding Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threat that Cyprus could be implicated in a wider conflict if the island nation allows Israel to use its ports and airports to target Lebanon.

Stano said the EU fully supports Cyprus and that the trade bloc is in contact with “a number of partners in the region," including Lebanon and Hezbollah, in order to de-escalate tension.

Cyprus has enjoyed increasingly tight relations with Israel in recent years, spawned by the discovery of undersea natural gas deposits in waters between the two neighbors. Cyprus has hosted joint Israeli-Cypriot military exercises, but has not ben involved in any military operations.

Cyprus government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis repeated that any suggestion that Cyprus – either through its infrastructure or territory - would be involved in any military operation in Lebanon is “totally groundless.”

Letymbiotis reiterated that the island nation “is not part of the problem” but “part of the solution” thanks to its regional diplomatic footprint.

The Hezbollah militant group said at least three of its fighters were killed in Israeli strikes on Wednesday.

Lebanese state media reported multiple Israeli strikes along the border and in an area north of the coastal city of Tyre, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the frontier. The Israeli military said two Hezbollah launches damaged several vehicles in northern Israel.

The fighting came as Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden, returned to Israel after meeting with officials in Lebanon on Tuesday. There has been no word on whether he has made progress in his efforts to avoid a devastating regional war.

Kamel Mohanna, the head of the Amel Association, an NGO providing health services in Lebanon, said the group’s primary health center in the town of Khiam was hit and damaged by Israeli shelling.

Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border.

But the fighting has escalated in recent weeks, raising fears that the clashes could boil over into a full-blown war. Israel’s army announced late Tuesday that it has “approved and validated” plans for an offensive in Lebanon.

Israeli strikes already have killed more than 400 people in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters,

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip sit at a makeshift tent camp in Khan Younis, Gaza, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip sit at a makeshift tent camp in Khan Younis, Gaza, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

FILE - Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, Thursday, March 14, 2024. A persistent breakdown in law and order is rendering an aid route in south Gaza unusable, the UN and NGOs say, days after Israel's military said it would pause combat there to help aid reach desperate Palestinians. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, File)

FILE - Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, Thursday, March 14, 2024. A persistent breakdown in law and order is rendering an aid route in south Gaza unusable, the UN and NGOs say, days after Israel's military said it would pause combat there to help aid reach desperate Palestinians. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, File)

FILE - Palestinians storm rucks loaded with humanitarian aid brought in through a new U.S.-built pier, in the central Gaza Strip, Saturday, May 18, 2024. A persistent breakdown in law and order is rendering an aid route in south Gaza unusable, the UN and NGOs say, days after Israel's military said it would pause combat there to help aid reach desperate Palestinians. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana, File)

FILE - Palestinians storm rucks loaded with humanitarian aid brought in through a new U.S.-built pier, in the central Gaza Strip, Saturday, May 18, 2024. A persistent breakdown in law and order is rendering an aid route in south Gaza unusable, the UN and NGOs say, days after Israel's military said it would pause combat there to help aid reach desperate Palestinians. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana, File)

FILE - A ship is seen off the coast of Gaza near a U.S.-built floating pier that will be used to facilitate aid deliveries, as seen from the central Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. U.S. officials said Friday, June 14, 2024, that the pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for the second time in a month due to rough seas, raising questions about the viability of the sea route. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana, File)

FILE - A ship is seen off the coast of Gaza near a U.S.-built floating pier that will be used to facilitate aid deliveries, as seen from the central Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. U.S. officials said Friday, June 14, 2024, that the pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for the second time in a month due to rough seas, raising questions about the viability of the sea route. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana, File)

FILE - This image provided by U.S. Central Command, shows the U.S.-built floating pier being used to facilitate aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. U.S. officials said Friday, June 14, 2024, that the pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for the second time in a month due to rough seas, raising questions about the viability of the sea route. (U.S. Central Command via AP, File)

FILE - This image provided by U.S. Central Command, shows the U.S.-built floating pier being used to facilitate aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. U.S. officials said Friday, June 14, 2024, that the pier will be detached from Gaza’s coast for the second time in a month due to rough seas, raising questions about the viability of the sea route. (U.S. Central Command via AP, File)

A Palestinian girl stands at the entrance of her family tent at a makeshift tent camp for those displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip in Khan Younis, Gaza, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

A Palestinian girl stands at the entrance of her family tent at a makeshift tent camp for those displaced by the Israeli air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip in Khan Younis, Gaza, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

Buildings are seen in Kiryat Shmona, a city next to border with Lebanon, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Buildings are seen in Kiryat Shmona, a city next to border with Lebanon, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Hussein, son of senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55, who was killed last week by an Israeli strike in south Lebanon, speaks during a ceremony to commemorate the death of his father, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Hussein, son of senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55, who was killed last week by an Israeli strike in south Lebanon, speaks during a ceremony to commemorate the death of his father, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

An Israel flag hangs on an area backdropped by buildings in Kiryat Shmona, a city next to border with Lebanon, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

An Israel flag hangs on an area backdropped by buildings in Kiryat Shmona, a city next to border with Lebanon, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Hezbollah supporters raise their fists and cheer as they watch a speech given by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on a screen during a ceremony to commemorate the death of senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55, who was killed last week by an Israeli strike in south Lebanon, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Hezbollah supporters raise their fists and cheer as they watch a speech given by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on a screen during a ceremony to commemorate the death of senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, 55, who was killed last week by an Israeli strike in south Lebanon, in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

A damaged building, from previous shelling attacks from Lebanon, is seen in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

A damaged building, from previous shelling attacks from Lebanon, is seen in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

In this combination image, Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, speaks on April 13, 2022, in Gaza City, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on June 18, 2024, in Tel Aviv. The fate of the proposed cease-fire deal for Gaza hinges in many ways on Sinwar and Netanyahu. Each faces significant political and personal pressures that may be influencing their decision-making and neither seems in a rush to make concessions to end the war. (AP Photo)

In this combination image, Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, speaks on April 13, 2022, in Gaza City, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on June 18, 2024, in Tel Aviv. The fate of the proposed cease-fire deal for Gaza hinges in many ways on Sinwar and Netanyahu. Each faces significant political and personal pressures that may be influencing their decision-making and neither seems in a rush to make concessions to end the war. (AP Photo)

A man drives his motorcycle past a damaged building, from previous shelling attacks from Lebanon, in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

A man drives his motorcycle past a damaged building, from previous shelling attacks from Lebanon, in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7. There have been near daily exchanges of fire, though most of the strikes are confined to an area within a few mostly confined to the area around the border. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

Palestinians mourn their relative Tamer Mohsen killed in the Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat refugee camp, at the morgue of al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Saher Alghorra)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Victoria Estevez finally met someone who saw past her shyness. They spent two months learning about their likes and dislikes, texting about their families and friends, and walking around their hometowns on Venezuela's Caribbean coast. On a trip to the capital in December, they held each other for the first time.

I-like-yous followed, and by February, they were calling it a relationship.

And then came heartbreak.

“Remember I had told you that I have a brother in the Dominican Republic? Well, I am going to leave the country, too,” Estevez, 20, recalled reading in an early March WhatsApp message from her new boyfriend. He was the second guy in a row to blindside her with imminent plans to emigrate.

Nothing, not even love, has been spared the uncertainty that plagues everyday life in crisis-ridden Venezuela, which has seen several million people leave in the last decade or so. As a presidential election looms this month along with questions about Venezuela's future, many more are considering emigrating, wreaking havoc on the country's economy, its politics and its dating scene.

Young people are debating online and among themselves whether it's worth it to start a relationship — or whether to end one. Others are wondering when it is too soon or too late to ask the crucial question: Will you leave the country?

The last 11 years under President Nicolás Maduro have transformed Venezuela and Venezuelans.

In the 2000s, a windfall of hundreds of billions of oil dollars allowed then- President Hugo Chávez's government to launch numerous initiatives, including providing ample public housing, free health clinics and education programs.

But a global drop in oil prices, government mismanagement and widespread corruption pushed the country into the political, social and economic crisis that has marked the entirety of his successor's presidency: Decent paying jobs are rare. Water, electricity and other public services are unreliable. Food prices have skyrocketed.

The country that once welcomed Europeans fleeing war and Colombians escaping a bloody internal conflict has now seen more than 7.7 million people flee its shores. The government now faces its toughest test in decades in a July 28 election.

Accountant Pedro Requena has seen many a friend leave, but the news hit differently when the woman he had spent three “incredible” months dating in 2021 told him she was moving with her mom to Turkey. Requena, 26, was swooning over her, but he was committed to finishing his university degree and did not consider migrating.

With no guarantee of when they could visit each other, they still decided to give long-distance a try. They woke up early or went to bed late so that they could have video calls despite their seven-hour difference. They watched movies and TV shows simultaneously. They texted and texted and texted.

“Venezuelans adapt to anything," he said. "The crisis changes you.”

Indeed, Venezuelans adapted their diets when food shortages were widespread and again when groceries became available but unaffordable. They sold cars and switched to motorcycles or stopped driving, when lines at gas stations stretched kilometers (miles). They stocked up on candles when power outages became the norm. They used the U.S. dollar when the Venezuelan bolivar became worthless.

But that unpredictability is disastrous for forming lasting bonds.

“The political instability actually introduces the instability into the relationship or into dating in general,” said Dr. Amir Levine, a psychiatrist and research professor at Columbia University.

For many of the young people fleeing Venezuela now, migration was not their first choice. First, they protested, standing on the front lines of massive anti-government demonstrations in 2017, when they were students.

The movement was met with repression and sometimes deadly force — and nothing changed: Maduro is still president, well paying jobs are nonexistent, and a car, a house and other symbols of adulthood did not materialize for this generation.

Now, instead of planning demonstrations, they plan one-way trips abroad.

Half of Kelybel Sivira's graduating class from law school — including people involved in the protests — has left the country.

The 29-year-old commercial lawyer reconnected online with a former classmate in May 2021, after he had already emigrated to the U.S. with his family. Their friendly conversations turned romantic, and they began to consider a relationship toward the end of 2022.

They have not seen each other in person for years. He is seriously considering returning to Venezuela in August regardless of the election outcome. She does not want that.

“I’m afraid that he will return to the country and say, ‘Venezuela, I still hate you. This is not what I want,’” Sivira said. “I don’t want to feel guilty.”

Requena is also in a kind of limbo. Though he and his long-distance girlfriend decided to see other people, he still longs for the person he said was his perfect match.

“We keep in touch. The affection is always present,” he said. “It ended, but the future is uncertain, and even more so with this country.”

A campaign sign promoting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that reads in Spanish "Faith in our people," stands in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 16, 2024, ahead of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A campaign sign promoting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that reads in Spanish "Faith in our people," stands in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 16, 2024, ahead of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Venezuelan Kelybel Sivira poses for a photo in Bogota, Colombia, Friday, July 12, 2024. Half of Sivira's graduating class from law school in Venezuela has left the country, worn out, as she put it, by devoting so much of themselves to anti-government protests only to see that “the country simply moved on as if nothing happened.” In turn, the dating pool for her generation shrank. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Venezuelan Kelybel Sivira poses for a photo in Bogota, Colombia, Friday, July 12, 2024. Half of Sivira's graduating class from law school in Venezuela has left the country, worn out, as she put it, by devoting so much of themselves to anti-government protests only to see that “the country simply moved on as if nothing happened.” In turn, the dating pool for her generation shrank. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Student Gabriel Ortiz uses his cellphone at the Central University of Venezuela UCV in Caracas, Thursday, July 4, 2024. The man Ortiz was dating recently left crisis-ridden Venezuela, where the uncertainty is causing many young people to question whether it’s worth it to start a relationship. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Student Gabriel Ortiz uses his cellphone at the Central University of Venezuela UCV in Caracas, Thursday, July 4, 2024. The man Ortiz was dating recently left crisis-ridden Venezuela, where the uncertainty is causing many young people to question whether it’s worth it to start a relationship. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

FILE – Anti-government protesters march along a highway in Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2017. Many young people who once joined such demonstrations are now disillusioned and are considering emigrating – and it’s wreaking havoc on the country’s dating scene. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

FILE – Anti-government protesters march along a highway in Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2017. Many young people who once joined such demonstrations are now disillusioned and are considering emigrating – and it’s wreaking havoc on the country’s dating scene. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

Roisis Lopez puts out toilet paper to sell at her street stall in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Roisis Lopez puts out toilet paper to sell at her street stall in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A couple sit on a park bench in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Cristian Hernandez)

A couple sit on a park bench in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Cristian Hernandez)

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