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Storm Damage Forces Removal of US-Built Gaza Pier for Repairs
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By Associated Press
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 28, 2024

The U.S.-built pier in Gaza, vital for delivering humanitarian aid, will be temporarily removed for repairs due to damage from severe weather, causing a significant disruption in aid delivery. (AP File)

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WASHINGTON — The U.S.-built temporary pier that has been taking humanitarian aid to starving Palestinians for less than two weeks will be removed from the coast of Gaza to be repaired after getting damaged in rough seas and weather, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Pier Will Move for Repairs

Over the next two days, the pier will be pulled from the beach and sent to the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, where U.S. Central Command will repair it, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters. She said the fixes will take “at least over a week” and then the pier will need to be anchored back into the beach in Gaza.

“From when it was operational, it was working, and we just had sort of an unfortunate confluence of weather storms that made it inoperable for a bit,” Singh said. “Hopefully just a little over a week, we should be back up and running.”

The pier, used to carry in humanitarian aid arriving by sea, is one of the few ways that free food and other supplies are getting to Palestinians who the U.N. says are on the brink of famine amid the nearly 8-month-old war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Two Main Crossings Not Accessible Into Gaza

The two main crossings in southern Gaza, Rafah from Egypt and Kerem Shalom from Israel, are either not operating or are largely inaccessible for the U.N. because of fighting nearby as Israel pushes into Rafah. The pier and two crossings from Israel in northern Gaza are where most of the incoming humanitarian aid has entered in the past three weeks.

The setback is the latest for the $320 million pier, which only began operations in the past two weeks and has already had three U.S. service members injured and had four vessels beached due to heavy seas. Two of the service members received minor injuries but the third is still in critical condition, Singh said.

Deliveries also were halted for two days last week after crowds rushed aid trucks coming from the pier and one Palestinian man was shot dead.

Heavy Seas Caused the Damage to the Pier

The pier was fully functional as late as Saturday when heavy seas unmoored four of the Army boats that were being used to ferry pallets of aid from commercial vessels to the pier. The system is anchored into the beach in Gaza and provided a long causeway for trucks to drive that aid onto the shore.

Two of the vessels got stuck on the coast of Israel. One has already been recovered and the other will be in the next 24 hours with the help of the Israeli military, Singh said. The other two boats were stranded on the beach in Gaza and were expected to be recovered in the next two days, she said.

The suspension of the pier comes after the new sea route had begun to pick up steam, with more than 1,000 metric tons of food aid delivered.

U.S. officials have repeatedly emphasized that the pier cannot provide the amount of aid that starving Gazans need and said that more checkpoints for humanitarian trucks need to be opened. At maximum capacity, the pier would bring in enough food for 500,000 of Gaza’s people, and U.S. officials have stressed the need for open land crossings for the remaining 1.8 million.

The U.S. also has planned to continue to provide airdrops of food, which likewise cannot meet all the needs.

A deepening Israeli offensive in the southern city of Rafah has made it impossible for aid shipments to get through the crossing there, which is a key source for fuel and food coming into Gaza. Israel says it is bringing aid in through another border crossing, Kerem Shalom, but humanitarian organizations say Israeli military operations make it difficult for them to retrieve the aid there for distribution.

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