US hoping troubled Gaza aid pier can resume operations on Thursday

Floating access route to Palestinian enclave has been plagued by problems caused by rough weather; unclear how much longer it will remain in use

Trucks loaded with humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates and the United States Agency for International Development cross the Trident Pier before entering the beach in Gaza, May 17, 2024. (Staff Sgt. Malcolm Cohens-Ashley/US Army Central via AP)
Trucks loaded with humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates and the United States Agency for International Development cross the Trident Pier before entering the beach in Gaza, May 17, 2024. (Staff Sgt. Malcolm Cohens-Ashley/US Army Central via AP)

WASHINGTON — The US military’s on-again, off-again floating pier in Gaza was expected to resume operations on Thursday to unload sorely needed humanitarian aid for Palestinians, two US officials told Reuters.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the pier had been re-attached to the shore on Wednesday after being temporarily removed last Friday due to poor sea conditions.

Aid began arriving via the US-built pier on May 17, and the UN said it transported 137 trucks of aid to warehouses, some 900 metric tons.

But rough seas damaged the pier, with the US military announcing repairs on May 28, and poor weather and security considerations have limited the number of days it has been operational.

The UN said on Friday it had still not resumed transportation of aid from the pier to UN World Food Programme warehouses.

US President Joe Biden announced in March the plan to put the pier in place for aid deliveries as famine loomed in Gaza, a Hamas-run enclave of 2.3 million people.

The US military estimated the pier cost more than $200 million and involved about 1,000 service members.

Yet it is unclear how much longer it will be operational, though a New York Times report said it could be dismantled early next month. According to the Times, the pier has only completed 10 full days of operations since it was opened.

The image provided by US Central Command shows American and Israeli forces placing the Trident Pier on the coast of Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024. (US Central Command via AP)

Speaking at the Pentagon on Tuesday, spokesperson Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder declined to say when the military might halt pier operations altogether. He said the pier has so far allowed for a total of over 3,500 metric tons of aid to reach Gaza’s shores.

“With the caveat that this has always been intended to be a temporary pier, I’m not aware at this point of any established date of: ‘This is when we’re going to stop,'” he told reporters.

“And again, taking a step back here, the big picture: Whether it be by land, sea or air, [the United States is] employing all avenues to get assistance into Gaza.”

The ongoing war in the enclave was started by the Hamas-led October 7 attacks in which Palestinian terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 251.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 37,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting, an unverified figure that does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. The toll is believed to include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

UN officials have also said they were reassessing the use of the pier, claiming that Israeli military activity nearby had jeopardized the perceived neutrality of the aid route.

Israel and the US deny that any aspect of the month-old US pier was used in the Israeli raid. They say an area near it was used to fly home the hostages.

Rushing out a mortally wounded Israeli commando after a hostage rescue raid earlier this month, Israeli rescuers opted against returning the way they came, across a land border, Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters. Instead, they sped toward the beach and the site of the US aid hub on Gaza’s coast, he said. An Israeli helicopter touched down near the US-built pier and helped whisk away hostages and the commando, according to the US and Israeli militaries.

However, the UN World Food Programme, which works with the US to transfer aid from the pier to warehouses and local aid teams for distribution within Gaza, suspended cooperation as it conducts a security review. Aid has been piling up on the beach since.

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