US officials say Gaza aid pier may be dismantled soon, after little success – report

New York Times reports said structure could be taken down in early July, weeks earlier than planned and after only 10 days of actual operation, due to unexpected weather conditions

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)
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)

The aid pier built on the Gaza coast by the United States for some $200 million may be dismantled earlier than planned, according to a Tuesday media report, having so far completed a total of 10 days of actual operations.

The New York Times reported that US officials had told aid organizations in Gaza that the structure could be taken apart early in July, having done little to alleviate goods shortages in the Strip amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

The pier has been mostly inoperative since it was inaugurated in mid-May, due to weather damage, stormy seas and security concerns.

The US military was preparing to temporarily remove the humanitarian aid pier last week because of anticipated sea conditions, having just resumed bringing supplies into the enclave after suspending delivery the previous weekend.

“Today, due to expected high seas, the temporary pier will be removed from its anchored position in Gaza and towed back to Ashdod, Israel,” the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a social media post on Friday.

“The safety of our service members is a top priority and temporarily relocating the pier will prevent structural damage caused by the heightened sea state,” the post added. The pier involves about 1,000 US service members.

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)

Spring and the beginning of summer usually see calmer seas off the coast of Gaza, according to the report. The Times quoted retired US major general Paul D. Eaton, who has experience installing humanitarian aid piers in war zones, as saying, “Plan on X, and nature sends 2X.”

Aid began arriving via the pier on May 17, and the United Nations said it transported 137 trucks of aid to warehouses, some 900 metric tons, before the US announced on May 28 that it had suspended operations so repairs could be made.

UN officials have recently said they were reassessing the use of the pier, claiming that Israel Defense Forces activity nearby had jeopardized the perceived neutrality of the aid route. The concerns stemmed in part from false social media reports that Israel used the floating pier in a hostage rescue mission, though the Pentagon dismissed the claims out of hand.

Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder said that there were Israeli helicopter operations “near” the pier, but confirmed that neither the structure nor any US military personnel were involved in the raid.

IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters after the operation that rescuers had opted against returning the way they came, across a land border, as they were rushing out a mortally wounded commando. Instead, they sped toward the beach and the site of the US aid hub on Gaza’s coast, he said, where an Israeli helicopter touched down and helped whisk away the hostages and the commando.

Rescued hostages are brought to an IDF helicopter on the beach in Gaza before being flown to Israel, June 8, 2024 (Screenshot via Kan News, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Still, the UN World Food Program, 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.

Despite coordinating aid distribution at the floating dock, the UN has remained adamant that aid deliveries by land are the “most viable, effective and efficient” way to combat the humanitarian crisis in the enclave of 2.3 million people. The UN has said at least 500 trucks a day are needed to enter Gaza.

The maritime route for a limited time had been an additional way to help get more aid into Gaza amid the war.

Egypt has refused to let aid through the Rafah Border Crossing since Israel took control of the Gaza side of the crossing in early May. The Kerem Shalom Crossing from Israel continues to operate despite coming under frequent attack from Hamas, and two recently opened crossings in northern Gaza are also operating.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has said from the start that the pier wasn’t meant to be a total solution and that any amount of aid helps.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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