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Administration Officials Hold A News Briefing Via Teleconference On Humanitarian Assistance To Gaza

MAJOR GENERAL PAT RYDER:  All right, good afternoon, everyone. Thanks very much for joining us today. I'm Major General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary. I will be facilitating today's on record briefing. If I can ask you to please put your microphones on mute.

GEN. RYDER:  Again, thank you for joining us for today's on the record briefing to discuss the status of the maritime corridor that is facilitating the transfer of humanitarian assistance into Gaza through the joint over the shore capability. Joining us on the call today is Daniel Dieckhaus, Director of USAID's Levant Response Management Team, Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Deputy Commander, United States Central Command, and Chris Mewett, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Partnerships.

Please note, I will call on reporters and we'll try to get to as many of your questions as possible in the time that we have available. Finally, before we begin, again, I would please ask that you keep your phones on mute unless you are asking a question.  And with that, I will turn it over to Mr. Dieckhaus. Thank you very much, sir. Over to you. 

DANIEL DIECKHAUS:  Thanks a lot. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Dan Dieckhaus. I am the Response Manager for USAID's Gaza response. And thanks for joining us today. We'll be providing an update on our efforts to move assistance into Gaza via the multinational humanitarian maritime corridor. 

I'd first like to just point out that the situation in Gaza remains particularly dire. Since early May, some 800,000 to 900,000 people have fled Rafah as a result of either evacuation orders or associated panic, fleeing to areas that have already been hosting large numbers of population with insufficient services. I think it's all the more testament to the reason why we need additional entry points and increasing the volume of all entry points into Gaza.   On May 17th, the first shipments of urgently needed life-saving assistance began arriving in Gaza through the humanitarian maritime corridor. This is a multinational combined effort involving the United States, led by USAID and the Department of Defense, as well as the Republic of Cyprus, Government of Israel, the U.N. and international donors such as the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the European Union. 

With aid now flowing into Gaza via the humanitarian maritime corridor, Vice Admiral Cooper and I will speak in greater detail about how this corridor works, what this new route means for our continued efforts to surge humanitarian aid into Gaza through all available avenues. The maritime corridor is a complex, multistep process through which aid is moved to humanitarian organizations ready to facilitate its distribution to Palestinian communities throughout Gaza in an independent, neutral, and impartial manner.

Again, that means that these organizations determine who receives the assistance, what type of assistance is being delivered and the manner in what is being delivered. The way this process works, multistep, first, aid is sent to Cyprus, arriving from donor countries humanitarian organizations in a number of different ways, by air, by sea. Once there, it is screened, packaged, and loaded onto ships for transit to the floating platform off the coast of Gaza, which can take up to a day depending on ship schedules. Could be quicker, could be slower. Then it goes on to other smaller ships, so it can be transported to the temporary pier.  Once there, it is collected and offloaded onto the beach and into a marshalling area where humanitarian organizations receive it. From there, the aid is transported to the humanitarian organization's warehouses or direct to distribution points via truck to get into the hands of people in desperate need. 

What has left the beach for distribution is the most important part of the process, that is the next to last step for aid receiving — being received in the hands of people that need it throughout Gaza. This process is incredibly complicated. It's multifaceted, requires many different moving pieces to align in order for it to work, as well as very strict timing for humanitarian organizations to receive the assistance and move it safely and efficiently to storage and to onward distribution. We continually adjust and there will continue to be adjustments needed as we learn and adapt the processes. And these processes are improving every day. And we hope this new mechanism provides a new and consistent avenue for moving aid into Gaza. Due to the urgent needs on the ground, supplies are being moved almost immediately to reach people.   Since the first shipments of this aid arrived through the humanitarian maritime corridor on Friday, the U.N. has been distributing more than 506 metric tonnes of humanitarian supplies to people in need, including Deir al-Balah, Al-Mawasi, and Khan Younis. To put it into perspective, more than two-thirds of the supplies entering through this new corridor have already been distributed, or in the process of being distributed by humanitarian partners directly to people in need.      This influx of humanitarian supplies into the U.N. pipeline is an important part of an overall effort to mitigate and counter the threat of emerging famine, extreme food insecurity, as well as addressing needs in shelter, health, and other sectors. However, it does not replace land crossings and it's not intended to do so.

I will reiterate that not enough trucks are reaching Gaza from overland border crossings. And the humanitarian community is not able to fully access assistance at the border crossings due to shortages of fuel, insecurity, access constraints, or simply ongoing fighting as a part of this overall wartime environment within Gaza.   Conditions on the ground have not dramatically improved. And in the past two weeks we have seen the vital Rafah border crossing close and remain closed, resulting in aid supply declining at a time when it is critical we see more aid move. I just want to be clear that this humanitarian maritime corridor alone is not enough to meet the staggering needs in Gaza, but it is an important addition. It is meant to augment, not replace or substitute for land crossings into Gaza.

As an example of the additive value of the corridor, yesterday, the U.N. was able to collect just 70 trucks of assistance from all border crossings for distribution in Gaza. 38 percent of this assistance, 27 trucks were collected from the maritime corridor. Unfortunately, this is also an example of the low overall numbers of humanitarian assistance being collected and distributed. 

So in addition to the maritime corridor, every land crossing needs to be open and operate at maximum capacity and efficiency. That means enabling aid to cross the border and enabling humanitarian organizations with sustained fuel, safety, and access to collect goods at the border and distribute them throughout Gaza.   Every moment that a crossing is not open, that trucks are not moving or where aid cannot be predictably collected at crossings distributed, increases the terrible human cost of this conflict. This is a complex humanitarian aid mission that requires continuous coordination between many partners. The support and contributions of the U.N., the government of Cyprus and other international partners, including the U.K., European Union, United Emirates, France, Romania and others, is vital, as is the cooperation of Israel. And underpinning this entire mission is a commitment to save lives, which remains our highest priority. I want to stress an important point that I've already made here. The operating conditions, the security, access, supply of fuel, and other factors directly impact, in fact, have the greatest impact on the ability of our partners and all humanitarian organizations to get this aid to people who need it most. This is true of any entry point into Gaza, land or sea. It's critically important to get assistance into Gaza. But if humanitarians don't have fuel in their trucks, if they can't access the collection points at the border or at the beach and can't safely move it forward for distribution, then only a part of the equation is being answered. 

So we're working on this writ large and we're working on this in particular, USAID and Department of Defense, with the maritime corridor, with a lot of concerted effort taking place in a coordination cell specifically set up to connect the IDF and humanitarians. And all parties are engaging productively and we've seen some significant improvements. It's critical that humanitarian workers are able to safely deliver and distribute lifesaving assistance from this corridor and throughout Gaza in line with humanitarian principles and will continue to advocate for increased measures to provide greater assurances for those working at great personal risk to do so.  With that, I'll turn it over to my colleague, Vice Admiral Cooper.

GEN. RYDER:  Admiral Cooper, are you there, sir? 

VICE ADMIRAL BRAD COOPER:  Yeah, I sure am. Hey, let me just do a test here. One, two, three, three, two, one.  

GEN. RYDER:  Yup, we got you loud and clear. 

ADM. COOPER:  Okay, great. Hey, thanks, Dan. Thanks for the opportunity to everyone to discuss this important effort with you today. U.S. Central Command forces continue to support USAID's provision of humanitarian assistance into Gaza from the sea as part of our government policy to flood the zone with humanitarian assistance.

As a point of continued emphasis, delivery of aid through land routes is the most efficient and effective pathway to move the necessary volume of assistance to the people of Gaza. This delivery of aid from the sea is additive and complimentary. 

As a refresher, this effort is enabled by a joint, a military logistics capability we have called Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, or JLOTS. JLOTS enables the unloading of ships without the benefit of a fixed port facility by utilizing a temporary floating pier. And to illustrate the magnitude of this effort, we have 1,000 U.S. soldiers and sailors, as well as 16 ships of various sizes dedicated to the execution of this mission exclusively. 

The JLOTS temporary floating pier was affixed to the beach of Gaza on May 16th. We commenced delivery of humanitarian assistance on May 17th. Thus far, great progress has been made. As I describe this progress for ease of explanation, we have redefined what capacity looks like. Going forward, we will measure throughput volume in metric tonnes delivered and metric tonnes distributed. Dan talked about this in his opening remarks.

The rationale for this is very simple. The trucks vary in size, and common sense tells you that weight depends on commodity. It matters whether you're talking about canned goods, or flour, or any other commodity. There's variation.

So through that new lens, here's what progress looks like today. First, I'd like to just say, we are highly confident in our ability to move humanitarian assistance from Cyprus to the sea, and then from the sea to Gaza. Since commencement of operations, 820 metric tonnes of aid have been delivered by CENTCOM forces from the sea to the beach transfer point, also called the marshalling yard. 

In terms of distribution, 506 metric tonnes of aid, as Dan described, have been distributed from the beach transfer point to the people of Gaza by the United Nations as of last night. That's more than 1 million pounds to put it in simple terms. This aid typically reaches the people of Gaza within 24 hours. 

So said a different way, we've enabled distribution of 1.2 million pounds of lifesaving aid through last night to the people of Gaza through the maritime humanitarian corridor. I can't emphasize enough that the international phase of this effort is important. And as Dan mentioned, this aid comes from U.S., U.K., UAE, the European Union, Romania, among others thus far.

As we've said, we're currently in a warm start period. Efforts are underway to scale up in the coming days. And with that, let me just pivot on a couple other key issues. The first one being force protection. This is our number one priority. Thus far, we've had no issues or incidents. Of course, we're clear-eyed and we continue to look at force protection all day, every day. And as it stands now, we assess that operations can continue. We have a coordination cell in Israel that is focused on ensuring safe operations around the JLOTS area, particularly convoy movements around the JLOTS area. 

With that, let's talk about some of the realities on the ground and acknowledge the inherent challenges of delivering humanitarian aid in a war zone, specifically with regard to internal distribution from our perspective of leading the coordination cell. This coordination cell is led by a U.S. Army three-star general. 

Our commitment to the safety of humanitarian workers requires a meticulous approach to distribution route planning and convoy monitoring with various stakeholders, especially the U.N., in order to reduce risk. We're doing this collaboratively with the Israeli Defense Forces and the United Nations who are embedded in our combined coordination cell and in close cooperation and communications every single day.     We've developed very robust measures for close coordination to mitigate risks and to prioritize safety over all else. This collaborative approach allows us to maintain security amidst the very complex and dynamic environment around the JLOTS pier while also maximizing throughput. 

And then just to illustrate the intricate nature of the security landscape, I'll give you just two examples of events that impact aid delivery that I've seen just the last couple of days. So the first, despite being miles away from the pier, a recent Hamas drone attack on the IDF prompted a swift counterattack, leading to the temporary shutdown of humanitarian convoys around Gaza for safety reasons.

I believe it's easy to understand how this might impact internal distribution operations. So to be clear, let me just say this as a point of emphasis. To be really clear, this incident had no impact on the pier itself. This incident had no impact on the pier itself. But convoy movements were obviously frozen for all the right reasons I think you would all understand. And for a period of time, this incident, you know, took some time to resolve and be addressed. So that's one.    The second one, in another instance, we were alerted to potential looting along a prearranged distribution route, necessitating the development of an alternate, safer path. As you would appreciate, coordination with all the parties involved causes slight delays, thus impacting aid delivery operations. So such challenges with internal distribution are not new or unique to aid delivery from the sea. But these atmospherics, I think, give you some sense of the operating environment. 

And then, as a reminder, there are no U.S. boots on the ground in this operation. Internal distribution is solely executed by humanitarian workers. So as we look ahead, I remain very optimistic. We have thousands of tonnes of aid in the pipeline for delivery from Cyprus to the Gaza shore. And as I said before, and I'll say it again here, we do encourage international donors to continue their contributions so that we can sustain and increase the volume of lifesaving aid getting to the people of Gaza every day.   With that, I'll pause and happy to take any questions.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you both very much, gentlemen. For our first question, we'll go to Associated Press, Tara Copp. 

Q:  Hi. Thank you all for doing this. My first question is for Director Dieckhaus. Can you describe the different challenges that the distribution trucks are facing after they leave the marshalling yard and as they go onto those forward? I guess some of them are hangers. And from that specific point, Admiral Cooper, if you could talk about what is the U.S. role in helping with that part of the distribution. I understand that there's a coordination cell for intelligence sharing and whatnot around the marshaling area, but how is the U.S. helping get these trucks after they leave the marshaling area actually out to the population? Thank you. 

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Thanks a lot for the question. So in terms of the challenges that are faced by humanitarian organizations after they leave the marshalling area, they're manifold, as you might imagine. So first of all, it's a wartime environment. There are wartime hazards. There's active fighting. And this is, you know, all these hazards, I should note at the outset, are not unique to the maritime corridor. They are present throughout Gaza, whether it's coming across a land crossing, whether it's coming across the maritime corridor or originating from, you know, warehouses within Gaza already. So you have the wartime hazards.

You have checkpoints and procedures that the government of Israel has set up to, you know, as part of their own security measures that require checking of lists and pre-coordination, prior notification. And then on top of that, you have omnipresent risks of self-distribution. And I'll talk a little about that in a second. Violence and criminal activities, these are risks faced along all major transportation corridors in Gaza. 

As I mentioned at the outset, some of this assistance is reaching warehouses, some of this is being distributed immediately to those in need. But all this requires constant maneuvering and these variables that come and go. Sometimes, one risk is more prevalent than another. On the — particularly on the self-distribution, we do understand civilians along the transportation route took some of the assistance once it left the maritime marshalling area in the initial days.

It does not — it represents a minority of the overall shipments. We understand that this desperation underscores the need to open all land crossings and maximize the throughput of life saving aid at all entry points, including the maritime corridor. But, you know, we don't find it acceptable that humanitarian organizations do not find it acceptable. It is not safe for the people that are involved, for civilians that are involved. It is not safe for the humanitarian aid workers that are operating under significantly dangerous conditions. And we will just further emphasize that point by thanking them for what they do each and every day. 

And of course, it's not acceptable because all of us want to ensure assistance reaches the most vulnerable. So these are critical concerns of ours. And we and humanitarian organizations continue to work with all stakeholders to mitigate the risks, ensure aid that reaches the intended beneficiaries. So that is — that means whether that's refinement of convoy planning, different routes that are chosen, community socialization before successive convoys go out, there's a variety of mitigation measures, but none of that is going to remove the risks. It's going to mitigate the risks. And again, we've seen this from the duration of the humanitarian response in Gaza.

ADM. COOPER:  It's Brad Cooper here. Let me just pick up on one of Dan's comments. He mentioned that minority of trucks have issues. So let me just give you some data on that. Over the last two days, 53 of 54 trucks had no issues. One truck, less than 2 percent, had a minor issue. So I think that gives you some context of what we're dealing with here. 

Okay, break. Tara, to your question, just to clarify the U.S. role in distribution. To be clear, the U.S. is not involved in convoy management throughout Gaza. We are involved in convoy monitoring and coordination in and around the JLOTS pier itself and surrounding areas. And so what does that look like? That we have a coordination cell U.S., IDF, U.N., other international partners involved in checking in with drivers, coordinating routes, and confirming delivery. So that's what it looks like. Over. 

Q:  So is there a role for helping find the alternative routes? It was my understanding that there was some U.S. participation, military participation, in helping identify these alternate routes?

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. We were absolutely involved through this — a coordination management or route coordination management board consisting of people from the United States, IDF, U.N., COGAT is a sub-element of the Israeli piece. We are all involved this together to make sure we can coordinate with one goal: to make this as safe as possible. And it's called, you know, the board is called a convoy monitoring board just for clarification. So they're watching this very closely. It's all about safety.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you both. Let's go to Natasha Bertrand from CNN.

Q:  Thanks, Pat. My question is for Admiral Cooper first. So there was video that emerged in recent days of a CRAM doing a test fire on the beach in Gaza near the A drop zone. And, you know, our understanding is that the rationale for not having us troops drive those trucks across the causeway to the beach was because the U.S. did not want any U.S. forces getting that close to the shore.   But those U.S. troops that were test firing that CRAM, they did appear extremely close to the beach, even though their boots were not actually physically on that ground. So will troops be getting that close again to kind of maintain the CRAM and other defensive equipment that is there on the shore, or was that kind of a one-time thing? And then I have a question for aid. 

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. I'm just not going to be able to talk to the specifics around security. As a general rule, we have very much minimized the number of U.S. personnel operating on the pier. We have a very, very close collaborative effort with the Israeli Defense Force to ensure force protection of everyone. As I said, we look at this all day every day. It's priority number one and we'll continue that. 

Q:  And I mean, why is that defensive equipment even on the beach if the IDF has agreed to provide that security?

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah, this is prudent that we would leverage our full capacity along with the full capacity of IDF to protect Americans in an integrated manner, just as prudent planning, just as you would expect.

Q:  Okay, thanks. And then my next question is how much aid is currently waiting in Cyprus to be offloaded onto those ships, bringing it to the pier? Is there any kind of shortage or is there any concern about the idea that there's not enough aid being brought there at this point? 

MR. DIECKHAUS:  I'll (inaudible). 

COPPER:  Go ahead, Dan. Go ahead.

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Yeah. No, we don't have those concerns. There are thousands and thousands of tonnes that are in Cyprus, that are being further offloaded in Cyprus for scanning and then on loading on the ships in the process that I described. So there is plenty of aid in Cyprus and more on the way. 

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you both. Let's go to Fadi, Al Jazeera. 

Q:  Thank you for doing this.  

So question to Mr. Dieckhaus. Can you talk a little bit about the impact of the Israeli military operation in Rafah on the humanitarian situation in southern Gaza? And if you can help us understand, I think you mentioned that the number 506 metric tonnes of aid that's been distributed since Friday by the U.N. or is on the way to being distributed.

In terms of comparison to what was getting into Gaza before the operation in Rafah or in terms of trucks, how many trucks does this — the 506 metric tonne? And for Admiral Cooper, Israeli media reports today talked about two injured U.S. soldiers involved in the JLOT operation.

Can you — are you able to confirm these reports and update us on their situation and how they were injured, if that is the case? Thank you. 

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Yeah, thanks very much for the question. I'll kind of answer it in reverse order. Your question on the 506 metric tonnes that we've cited have been distributed to date or they're in the process of being distributed. 

So to put in terms of perhaps a little bit more meaningful statistics, by our calculation, that is sufficient food to feed tens of thousands of people for a month. That is what has been delivered in the course of just a couple of days of the maritime corridor being opened. And that number will continue to grow as throughput increases, as aid continues to come ashore and be dispatched from the beach area. So we find that — obviously, that is not an endpoint for us. It's a starting point, but it's already, I think, fairly significant within just a few number of days. We always accounted for a bit of a ramp up period as everyone involved in that coordination cell that Vice Admiral Cooper described, figures out the procedures and ways to improve the processes. So it's up to a good start. We hope to increase that dramatically in the next couple of weeks. 

In terms of how that compares to what had been getting in prior to the recent military activities in Rafah governate, I don't have the exact numbers in front of me. But obviously — maybe it's not obvious. I think we've reported out before that the number — the amount of assistance that had been getting in was higher in April than it is now. Then the number — the amount of assistance that U.N. has been able to collect from border points was higher in April than it was now.

So at a time when needs have increased as a result of the displacement, the 900,000 people that I cited, that the amount of assistance and the access has gone down. In terms of other impacts of recent military activities, you know, it — as would be logical during military activities, access is a little harder. It's a little less safe in some areas. It's a lot less safe in some areas. 

And we understand that there are, you know, warehouses, some operational facilities such as health clinics, other centers that are in Rafah governate that are not accessible or that have run out of supplies or fuel. And on the fuel, I think, is another significant impact since the — I think the U.N. reported earlier this week that they are now receiving about a quarter of the daily fuel allotment that they had, which, you know, continues to impact their ability to get out and (inaudible), do assessments and conduct some of this distribution.   So I think all this being said, again, further emphasizing the necessity of the additive function of the maritime corridor. But by no means, is it a replacement? And we want to see the numbers go back up at Kerem Shalom. We want to see Rafah reopened. And we want to see full utilization of all the border crossings that are there, as well as the improved ability of humanitarians to get out and about throughout Gaza.

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. And sir, Brad Cooper here. So three injuries, two were very minor routine injuries. Those individuals returned to duty. One individual is undergoing care at an Israeli local hospital. He was injured out on a ship at sea.  Q:  If I just may follow up, the three injuries, are these combat? You said one is on the ship. Can you explain — give more information whether these are combat-related or not combat-related. Thank you.

ADM. COOPER:  These are not combat related. No. 

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you. All right. And for the sake of time, I'll just ask our media colleagues to limit follow up so we can get to your colleagues. Next will be Reuters, Idrees Ali.  

Q:  Hey, can you, Admiral Cooper, just describe what you mean by noncombat injuries? Was it like a rolled ankle or what was it? And then secondly, is there, in the department, a level of frustration with USAID, the U.N. and other aid groups? Because a lot of the risks and problems that you guys are describing were quite frankly very obvious from the outside that that would be something you have to deal with, new route like, you know, the fact that aid might be looted. I think probably could have been foreseen given the level of hunger. So is there frustration that the approach by USAID is more reactive than proactive when it comes to the pier and getting aid to the people of Gaza?

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. On the injuries, I'm not getting into much detail. One was simply a sprained ankle, the other guy - and one is a hurt back. These are very small. And I won't get into the details of the other one. In terms of the partnership, I could not be happier with the relationship between the Department of Defense and USAID in particular.       For months at this point, we have been working — supporting USAID as they've been leading on this effort. We work very closely with them in multiple venues at every level. That relationship, of course, has been good for many decades. I think it's as good today as it's ever been. Very happy with it. Over. 

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you. Let's go to Politico. Lara? 

Q:  Hello. Thanks so much for doing this. I wanted to ask about the timing for the floating pier. How much longer do you anticipate that it will or can stay in the region, particularly given the sea states in the fall? I understand the seas get rougher. So can it stay past like, say, August? What do you anticipate here?

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. Lara, there's no specific date we've been given in terms of conclusion. I've mentioned before, but just to reiterate, historically, by early September, the seas begun to rise and Mother Nature gets a vote here. That's where we stand.

Q:  So does that mean by early September, you would probably have to go home?

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. I think we're just going to have to see what the weather looks like going forward.  Q:  Okay. Have you had any additional delays due to weather? 

ADM. COOPER:  No, we have not.

Q:  Okay. Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Let's go to Wall Street Journal, Nancy Youssef. 

Q:  Thank you. I wanted to clarify a couple points you made earlier. You talked about 506 metric tonnes reaching transfer centers. Do you have a number for how many have actually gotten into the hands of Gazan residents? And also, I know that there's not necessarily apples to apples, but up until this point, we've measured aid in terms of trucks. Can you give us an estimate of how many trucks worth of aid have gotten in? Thank you. 

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Sure. I'll take that question. About two-thirds of that 506 metric tonnes has been distributed or is in the process of being distributed. And the delta is really just a day or two difference. Like, stuff is not sitting in warehouses or intermediate points within Gaza very long because of the desperation of people in need.              So, you know, we have confirmed, we have post distribution monitoring and, you know, reporting from our partners that shows that assistance is already reaching the hands of people in need. You know, the totality of that is already, you know, of the entire 506 is sufficient for tens of thousands of people for sure. And I'm sorry, I didn't hear the last part of your question. Could you repeat?

Q:  Sure. I know that you guys are measuring in metric tonnes.

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Oh, yeah.

Q:  But up to this point, we've had it in trucks. Can you give a (inaudible) approximate of how many truckloads we're talking about?

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Yeah, sure. It's been about 71 trucks to date, which again, I think has steadily increased day by day. And we're looking to see that ramp up even further. And I'll just take a quick second to respond to previous questions on how DoD is working with USAID and vice versa. I totally echo Vice Admiral Cooper's comments. I think our relationship is seamless, a lot of good cooperation between the agency and the department. So no issues there either.

GEN. RYDER:  Gentlemen, we'll go to Konstantin?

Q:  Thank you for the opportunity. My question was answered. Thank you. 

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you. I apologize for my Darth Vader voice here. Let's go to Bloomberg, (inaudible).

Q:  Thanks, General Ryder. My question was also asked and answered.

GEN. RYDER:  Great. Okay. Let's go to Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press.

Q:  Hi, thank you all for doing this. I've got a question for Vice Admiral Cooper and for Dan. The barometers that we have in terms of, you know, what came into Gaza before the war, what USAID has needs to come into Gaza now, and you know, the 150 truckload goal, that maximum that the U.S. is aiming for the pier each day, it's all in trucks. So can you help us today by telling us how many — what's the metric tonne equivalent of the 150 trucks a day that are the top goal? 

And for Dan, the head of Refugee International, who's a former USAID official, calls the pier project overall humanitarian theater. He says that — he points out that at maximum one-tenth of what used to come through the Rafah crossing can come through the pier each day. And aid groups say both the Rafah crossing and Kerem Shalom have become inaccessible to them.    So the question is, why is the U.S. spending this kind of effort on the pier? And I don't hear it speaking publicly on Israel, speaking specifically for the need for Israel to grant aid groups access to both border crossings.

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah, Ellen, I'll take that first and then turn it over to Dan. You know, in simple terms, we're redefining what the capacity looks like in measuring things in volume, in metric tonnes delivered and in metric tonnes distributed. And the rationale is really simple. For instance, today, I noticed in Gaza, nine different truck sizes. Some were full, some were half full, some are quarter full. So there's that point. There's different weights. These are just trucks in general moving around Gaza, different weights of commodities. So it's really not a great metric. We want to be as precise as possible. And by shifting to this metric of tonnes delivered and then metric tonnes distributed, I think it keeps it very precise and understandable. And over to Dan. 

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Yeah, thanks a lot. You know, I would not call within a couple of days getting enough food and other supplies for tens of thousands of people for a month theater. I think, obviously, everyone's entitled to their opinion, but I think we are already making a meaningful contribution to the overall effort. At no point, have we ever postulated that the pier would be a replacement for any border crossing and nor was it ever intended to be. It was intended to be additive.

We are feel very strongly that Rafah and Kerem Shalom should be restored to full capacity, meaning both input in and access to it on the Gaza side. And we'll continue to speak about that both publicly in private discussions with all the parties that are involved. But by — yeah. No, I mean, I think we very much recognize the totality of the problem. The maritime corridor is a component of an overall approach to ensuring adequate assistance, as well as providing another option for humanitarian organizations to use as they make their operational decisions. The variability, like we went through, many of the risks that are associated with both distribution channels and entry points, that variability is quite volatile. So border crossing may come up, may come down from day to day. So increasing the overall number of options that are available is also additive in addition to the additional tonnage that might be processed through that. 

Q:  Vice Admiral, if I could just follow up —

GEN. RYDER:  Hey, Ellen. 

Q:  If I could just get how many metric tonnes do you calculate are in a truckload, just so that we can make that conversion of truckload to metric tonne? That's all.

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Yeah. This is exactly why we've gone to just talking about tonnes, because let's — I'll give you a good example. I saw a truck today, capable of carrying one pallet, one capable of carrying 2, one capable of carrying 6, one with 9, one with 11, one with 16, one with 20. Is that — you get my — yeah, I think you've — I'm painting the picture. There's not one common piece of this, so it's just easy to talk and wait. And that's what we'll be doing going forward.   Q:  Okay. Do you mind if I just ask? What's your maximum goal in metric tonnes for the pier daily?

GEN. RYDER:  Let's go to Missy Ryan, Washington Post.

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Yeah. Well, I'll go over to Pat Ryder. Pat, over to you. 

GEN. RYDER:  Yes, sir. I apologize. We got a few more folks we need to get to here. If we have time, we can come back. Let's go to Missy Ryan, Washington Post. 

Q:  Thanks, Pat. And thanks — I just have two clarifications from some of the earlier comments just to make sure that I'm understanding correctly. So the coordination management board that you mentioned is supposed to be helping ensure the safety of aid operations. That is something that the U.S. has been participating even prior to the activation of the JLOTS, or is that — is the U.S. participation new? And is that presumably is not just focused on the operations of aid that are related to the U.S. provided, U.S. facilitated aid by the pier. Is that right? And then I have another clarification. 

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. Just for clarification. The convoy monitoring board was established and is associated with the JLOTS operation exclusively. It consists of U.S. leadership under a U.S. three-star Army general, includes the IDF representation, COGAT, the U.N., and other international partners who join.

Their focus — their number one focus is to ensure that the convoys reach their destination safely. That's what they exist for. 

Q:  Sorry, is that the same thing as the coordination management board that you mentioned?

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like, I described it as coordination management. It is a convoy monitoring board. They do coordination. 

Q:  Okay. And then my other question is about this combined U.S. Israeli coordination cell on the ground. That is something that is — also I'm asking, is that something that is also new? And that — and just to understand correctly, that is focused on ensuring the force protection of U.S. personnel involved in the JLOTS effort, is that right? 

ADM. COOPER:  Yes. About six weeks ago, we established a bilateral coordination cell in Israel led by a U.S. Army three-star general. He works side-by-side with his Israeli partners designed to facilitate coordination at every level regarding force protection, communication, logistics, and operations.

Q:  Can you tell us who those two three-stars are?

ADM. COOPER:  There's only one three-star. It's the ARCENT commander, the — what well (inaudible). 

Q:  Okay.

MR. DIECKHAUS:  General Ryder, just — I just want to come back and I don't want to reopen the line of discussion. But just to reiterate that our — in terms of volume or targets, I think what we would primarily like to focus on is impacts over inputs. So the desired impact that we are shooting for, that requires a lot to fall in a place that we're working on, is feeding and assisting at least 500,000 people or more per month via the maritime corridor. 

I think it's a worthwhile goal. It's a high goal. We hope to exceed it, but a lot goes into that. So if we are able to do that, it is a substantial portion of the people that are in need. Over. 

GEN. RYDER:  Many thanks, gentlemen. Let's go to Chris Gordon, Air & Space.

Q:  Thanks, Pat. And thank you, gentlemen, for doing this. I want to follow up on two points mentioned. One, some people can't reach the collection points. Two, the goal is to flood the zone with aid. So Admiral Cooper, will the aid air drops continue, given the need, or is that now redundant with the maritime and land options? And if you do plan to continue the aid airdrops, will you shift where you conduct those airdrops since there is an issue getting to collection points? Thank you.

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. It is our intent to continue with the humanitarian airdrops. And as we have done in the past, our focus would be on North Gaza going forward.

Q:  But would you move those dynamically or is there any consideration to shifting that?

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah, there's a very sophisticated coordination process that we lead. As we've mentioned before in these venues, Jordan has played a very central role in this along with all the partners who we do a planning effort to coordinate where the drops will be so that we can deconflict in time and space. That certainly will continue going forward.

Q:  All right. Thank you.

GEN. RYDER:  Time for just a few more. Let's go to Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.

Q:  Thank you. Admiral Cooper, I need every scrap of information you have about these three injured service members. What branch of the services? Where are they from? Where were they when they got injured? And can you talk at all about the third injury? It was TBI or was it something else? Anything so I can describe it. Thank you. 

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. Just from a privacy act perspective, you know, I'll just leave it at we had, you know, two minor injuries and one, as I mentioned, who was medevac’d to a local hospital. Again, they were all out at sea. And we'll be happy to, you know, follow up with those. But for right now, we'll just leave it at that.

Q:  Were they all sailors? Were any — were they soldiers and sailors? 

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. We'll be happy to follow up through Pat.

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you. Let's go to Courtney Kube, NBC.

Q:  Thank you. Just a quick one. Can you say with any more specificity after the aid gets to the warehouse or gets to the — who are these — the partners who are delivering it? Because I think one of the things we've been confused about is, the United nations putting out a couple of statements over the last few days saying that they weren't delivering in Rafah and other parts of Gaza because of security situation. So I'm wondering if there are — who's actually getting the aid into the hands of the civilians? Thanks. 

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Yeah, absolutely. It's a combination of — as it is throughout Gaza, of U.N. agencies, international, local NGOs. And specific to the point, I know what you're referencing, the recent announcement of suspension of operations in Rafah governate. So the supplies that have gone in, as I mentioned at the outset, have gone to Deir Al Balah, Al-Mawasi and Khan Younis. All three of those locations are outside of the impacted area in Rafah. And that is where a lot of the displaced populations have gone to and where, you know, existing populations were already in need. 

So we are concerned with the overall situation that has led to the U.N. to make those statements. But there is still assistance that is moving throughout Gaza and the assistance that has come through the maritime corridor is part of that overall effort. 

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you. And for our final question, we'll go to Jared, Al-Monitor. 

Q:  Hi, all. Thank you for doing this. Wondering if you could tell us a few more details about this drone attack over the weekend and this IDF counterattack. Where did it occur and how did it affect the distribution operations? And then secondly, I believe it was reported that the IDF has given assurances that U.N. personnel will be able to receive medevac and treatment in Israeli hospitals. Has the IDF offered any other assurances for the safety and security of U.N. workers in this operation? Thanks.  

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah, a couple points here. One, just to reiterate, it's an active combat zone. So kinetic fires are happening frequently. My point in being illustrative with the drone, which occurred several miles away and to reiterate, had no impact on the JLOTS area, is simply to point out, when kinetic fires happen, coordination has to occur to ensure the safety of convoys. And that's what we're doing with a safety-first approach. And I'll kind of leave it there. Dan can take that baton and run with it on other details.

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Yeah. No, I mean, I think the overall point is accurate. There are so many things that occur on a daily basis, whether it's through the progress of, you know, active conflict that is occurring at any given — on any given basis. It is potential miscommunications at checkpoints. It is failure of communications equipment, it is, you know, technical things or trucks getting stuck in the mud, you know, organized crime, desperate crowds conducting self-distribution.

The risks are manifold. And they, you know, that — those operating conditions have not resolved because this is an act of conflict that, you know, with deteriorating conditions. So it will come up and down. And I think through the course, as we've seen through other border crossings, we've seen variable entries and variable ability to access from the Gaza side. And that's going to play out for all border crosses, including the maritime corridor. And Pat, back over to you, sir. 

GEN. RYDER:  Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, that is all the time we have available today. Before we conclude, I would like to offer the opportunity to our briefers, if any of them have any final comments. 

ADM. COOPER:  Dan, over to you first if you like.

MR. DIECKHAUS:  Yeah, thanks a lot. I think what we said at the outset, we think this is an important initiative. We are working closely with DoD, with humanitarian organizations, and all parties that are involved, including the Israeli government, to really maximize throughput here, as well as address some of the conditions that make the maritime corridor necessary to reduce the overall humanitarian need as our goal. 

And part of that is scaling up this corridor. Part of that is reopening closed border crossings and maximizing their value. And part of that is addressing the operating conditions within Gaza that make those border crossings less efficient, less effective than they can be, that, you know, make ongoing distributions less effective and far reaching as they can be. It's a multifaceted effort. This is one part of that. We look forward to continuing to scale up. And I just close by thanking, again, the humanitarian workers that are part of this overall response day in, day out, over 200 of whom have been killed through the progress of the war. A lot of the risk of the overall — almost entire risk of the overall humanitarian side of the operation is being born by a lot of these folks and they continue to grind it out every day to help people in need. It's a dire situation. This is a small but important contribution, has the potential to be even larger as we move forward. Thanks. 

ADM. COOPER:  Yeah. Brad here. Just a couple of comments. First, in the last several days, we've delivered over 1 million pounds of aid into the hands of Palestinians. We can all feel good about that. I'd also like to thank our partners, USAID, in particular, all the international partners, the NGOs, IDF, and the governments of both Cyprus and Israel for their full support in this endeavor. 

And then just in sum, every ounce of aid that has been scanned in Cyprus, put on a ship, taken to the floating pier, has reached the shore of Gaza and now is moving forward. Thanks very much.

GEN. RYDER:  All right. Thank you very much, gentlemen. Really appreciate your time today. Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our call. Out here.