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US-built pier set for removal from Gaza coast for repairs

Mediterranean Sea — The U.S.–built temporary pier that was facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid to starving Palestinians for less than two weeks is set for removal from the coast of Gaza. Rough seas and weather have damaged it, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Workers will pull the $320 million pier from the beach during the next two days and send it 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. said are on the brink of famine amide the nearly 8-month-old war between Israel and Hamas in 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 pier, which has already had three U.S. service members injured and 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.

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 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.

"My understanding is that the Israeli forces are moving along a corridor on the outskirts of the town of Rafa to put pressure on Hamas," White House advisor John Kirby told reporters on May 28 about a Sunday airstrike in Rafa. Dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed. "More than a million Palestinians have fled Rafa, and several hundred thousand remain. We don’t want to see a major ground offensive that puts civilians in Rafa in danger," said Kirby. 

Israel said it is bringing aid in through another border crossing, Kerem Shalom, but humanitarian organizations said Israeli military operations make it difficult for them to retrieve the aid there for distribution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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