A U.S. service member is in critical condition after sustaining a non-combat injury on Thursday while supporting humanitarian aid to Gaza, according to a U.S. defense official.

‘On May 23, a U.S. service member sustained a non-combat related injury aboard USNS Benavidez (T-AKR 306) while in support of the humanitarian aid mission to Gaza,’ a U.S. defense official said. ‘The service member was transported to a medical facility and is in critical condition at this time. More information will be provided as it becomes available.’

During an on-record call on Thursday, defense officials confirmed to reporters that three U.S. service members were injured while supporting a mission to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

While one individual was found to be in critical condition, the other two sustained injuries that were ‘very minor,’ according to Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who described them as ‘routine injuries.’

He added that the two service members who sustained minor injuries had returned to duty.

‘On the injuries, I’m not getting too much detail,’ Cooper told reporters. ‘One was simply a sprained ankle.’

A temporary pier was anchored to a Gaza beach last Thursday as Israel comes under growing global pressure to allow more supplies into the besieged coastal enclave, where it is at war with Palestinian militants Hamas and a famine looms.

Operations began on Friday and 10 aid trucks were driven by U.N. contractors to a World Food Programme warehouse in Deir El Balah in Gaza. But on Saturday, only five trucks made it to the warehouse after 11 others were intercepted.

‘Crowds had stopped the trucks at various points along the way. There was … what I think I would refer to as self-distribution,’ U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Tuesday.

‘These trucks were traveling through areas where there’d been no aid. I think people feared that they would never see aid. They grabbed what they could,’ he said.

Distribution was ultimately paused as the U.N. planned new routes and coordination of deliveries in a bid to prevent more aid being intercepted, said Abeer Etefa, a WFP spokesperson in Cairo.

Aid access into southern Gaza has been disrupted since Israel stepped up military operations in Rafah, a move that the U.N. says has forced 900,000 people to flee.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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