US-built aid pier to be removed from Gaza coast, repaired after damage

WASHINGTON (AP) — The temporary pier built in the United States which has been providing humanitarian aid to starving Palestinians for less than two weeks will be pulled from the Gaza coast for repairs after being damaged by rough seas and bad weather, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

Over the next two days, the pier will be removed from the beach and sent to the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, where US Central Command will repair it, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters. She said repairs would take “at least more than a week” and then the pier would have to be anchored again in Gaza Beach.

“Since it was operational, it was working, and we just had kind of an unfortunate confluence of weather storms that made it unusable for a while,” Singh said. “Hopefully in a little over a week we should be back up and running.”

The pier, used to transport humanitarian aid arriving by sea, is one of the few ways that free food and other supplies reach Palestinians who the UN says are on the verge of starvation in the middle of the almost 8 month old baby war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The two main crossing points in southern Gaza, Rafah from Egypt and Kerem Shalom from Israel, are either do not work or are largely inaccessible for the UN due to nearby fighting as Israel moves into Rafah. The pier and the two crossing points coming from Israel into northern Gaza are where most of the humanitarian aid has entered over the past three weeks.

The setback is the latest for the $320 million dock, which only began operations in the past two weeks and has already left three U.S. military personnel injured and four ships stranded due to strong Wed. Two of the soldiers were slightly injured, but the third is still in critical condition, Singh said.

Deliveries were also arrested for two days last week, after crowds rushed aid trucks coming from the pier and a Palestinian was shot dead.

The pier was fully functional until Saturday when rough seas unmoored four of the army boats that were used to transport pallets of aid from commercial ships to the pier. The system is anchored on Gaza Beach and provides a long causeway for trucks to deliver this aid to the shore.

Two of the ships remained stranded on Israeli shores. One has already been recovered and the other will be recovered in the next 24 hours with the help of the Israeli army, Singh said. The other two boats ran aground on Gaza beach and should be recovered within the next two days, she said.

AP Washington correspondent Sagar Meghani reports that rough seas damaged a temporary U.S.-built pier used to deliver aid to Gaza.

The suspension of the pier comes after the the new sea route began to gain momentumwith more than 1,000 tonnes of food aid delivered.

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

The United States also plans to continue providing food airdrops, which also cannot meet all needs.

A deepening Israeli offensive in the southern city of Rafah has made it impossible for aid shipments to pass through the crossing, which is a key source of fuel and food entering Gaza. Israel says it routes aid through another border crossing, Kerem Shalom, but aid organizations say Israeli military operations make it difficult to recover aid for distribution.

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