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Humanitarian workers have begun moving tons of supplies piled up at a U.S.-built pier off the coast of Gaza to warehouses in the besieged area, the United Nations said on Saturday, a key step as the U.S. considers resuming operations at the pier after another disruption due to heavy seas.

It was unclear when the aid would reach Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where experts warn of a high risk of starvation as the war between Israel and Hamas militias has been going on for nine months. It is the first time trucks have transported aid from the pier since the United Nations World Food Programme suspended its work there on June 9 due to security concerns.

Millions of dollars in relief supplies have accumulated. In the last week alone, more than 4.5 million kilograms (10 million pounds) were brought ashore, according to the US military.

A WFP spokesman, Abeer Etefa, told the Associated Press that this was a one-time operation until the relief supplies were cleared from the beach and was being done to prevent damage.

Further UN operations at the pier depend on UN security assessments, Etefa said.

The UN is investigating whether the pier was used in an Israeli military operation to rescue three hostages last month.

If WFP trucks successfully deliver aid to warehouses in Gaza, it could affect the U.S. military’s decision on whether to rebuild the pier, which had to be removed on Friday because of the weather. U.S. officials said they are considering not rebuilding the pier because of the possibility that aid would not be picked up.

Even if the UN decides to continue transporting aid from the pier to Gaza, the lawlessness surrounding the humanitarian convoys will pose a further challenge to distribution. The convoys have already come under fire in Gaza. While most aid deliveries are made by land, restrictions on border crossings and on the entry of goods into Gaza have further damaged a population that was already dependent on humanitarian aid before the war.

The June 9 pier stoppage came after the Israeli military used a nearby area to fly out hostages freed in a raid that killed more than 270 Palestinians, prompting a UN investigation amid concerns that the aid workers’ safety and neutrality could be at risk.

The fighting continues

Since the war began on October 7 with Hamas’s attack on southern Israel, more than 37,800 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its casualty count. The ministry said the bodies of 40 people killed in Israeli attacks had been brought to local hospitals in the past 24 hours.

At least two people were killed and six injured, including a child, in an attack in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

The Hamas attack on October 7 killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and another 250 people were taken hostage.

Israeli forces have been battling Palestinian militants in an eastern part of Gaza City over the past week, forcing tens of thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes, according to the UN.

“It’s like the first weeks of the invasion,” said local resident Mahmoud al-Masry about the intensity of the fighting. “Many people have been killed. Many houses have been destroyed. They hit everything that moves.”

The Israeli military confirmed an operation against Hamas fighters in Shijaiyah and spoke of “close fighting” on Saturday.

Elsewhere, thousands of Palestinians remaining in Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah fled Friday to Muwasi, a crowded tent camp on the coast designated by the Israeli army as a safe zone. Some told AP they evacuated because Israeli gunfire and rockets were approaching their shelter.

More than 1.3 million Palestinians have fled Rafah since Israel invaded the city in early May, while aid groups warn there are no safe places for them to go.

With the heat in Gaza reaching over 32 degrees Celsius, it is unbearable for many displaced people living in tents. The area has been without electricity since Israel cut off the power supply during the war. Israel has also cut off the drinking water supply to the enclave.

“Death is better than this, it is a grave,” said Barawi Bakroun, who was displaced from Gaza City, as others fanned themselves with pieces of cardboard.

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