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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Gaza pier repaired, US ready to resume aid mission, Pentagon says

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U.S. forces and their Israeli counterparts reattached a floating pier to Gaza’s coastline on Friday, officials said, as the United States prepares to resume a humanitarian operation that has faced numerous setbacks.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, a senior US military officer overseeing the mission, told reporters that deliveries of food and other desperately needed supplies would begin “in the coming days.” The first effort will include £500,000 in aid, he said, with thousands of tonnes more in the pipeline.

Parts of the steel pier were damaged on May 25 by powerful waves of more than one and a half meters. The mission was suspended days later after the structure disintegrated.

US forces transported the pieces to the nearby Israeli port of Ashdod, north of Gaza, and spent more than a week reassembling them. The Pentagon estimated that the pier suffered at least $22 million in damage, defense officials said.

Aid deliveries via the pier began under duress in the middle of last month and fell behind schedule due to bad weather. Pentagon officials expect a period of better weather ahead.

Days before the mission was halted, four U.S. military ships supporting the mission ran aground, and in a separate maritime accident — which the Pentagon has yet to fully explain — a U.S. service member was injured. The service member remained in critical condition at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas as of Friday.

The Biden administration has defended the project as a key part of a comprehensive approach to getting food and other necessities to Gaza’s citizens as Israel continues its war there against the militant group Hamas. About 1,000 tons of aid was delivered through the pier before the mission was suspended.

Critics have said the government’s embrace of the approach and the challenges that come with it underscore that it is not doing enough to pressure Israel to open more land crossings into Gaza. Administration officials agree that more land crossings should be opened but say it is embracing all available options to help civilians caught in the crossfire, including the pier and air drops by U.S. cargo planes.

“Why not try this?” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said this during a press conference at the White House last week. “If we had this opportunity, and it was available to us, we have the knowledge and expertise to do it, why would we leave that on the sidelines?”

The floating pier is connected to the land by a steel dam. Such missions have had a lasting limitation when operating in seas as low as 200 to 300 feet, according to several past reviews in U.S. military journals. It is unclear how U.S. commanders will respond if heavy maritime states recur.

This is a development story. It will be updated.