Middle East

US is disconnecting troubled Gaza humanitarian pier for a third time in anticipation of heavy seas, officials say

By Haley Britzky and Oren Liebermann, CNN

CNN  — 

The US is once again dismantling the troubled humanitarian pier to Gaza because of anticipated heavy seas and bad weather, two US officials said, marking the third time it will halt operations since it began working six weeks ago.

The pier was constructed to bring much needed aid to civilians suffering as the Israel-Hamas war continues, especially as land crossings frequently closed. It will be towed back to the Ashdod port in southern Israel on Friday until conditions are calmer. It’s unclear how long the pier will be disconnected, the officials said.

“As always, the safety of our service members is a top priority, and temporarily relocating the pier will prevent potential structural damage that could be caused by the heightened sea state,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said Friday.

The latest setback comes two days after GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to senior Biden administration officials in which he said the temporary pier “has been riddled with setbacks, sidelined more often than operational, and can only be classified as a gross waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Earlier this month, GOP Sen. Roger Wicker, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee,was even more blunt. “This needs to end immediately,” he said in a statement. And on Thursday, the Pentagon and USAID Inspectors General announced they were launching coordinated reviews of the humanitarian mission and pier.

This is the second time the pier has been disconnected intentionally as a precautionary measure to avoid damage in bad weather.

One week after the pier began operations in May, it was damaged in heavy seas, forcing the military to tow it to Ashdod for repairs.

Since the $230 million pier was first anchored in May, it has delivered 8,831 metric tons, more than 19.4 million pounds, of humanitarian aid, according to one other officials.

That aid, however, has begun piling up on the beach as the World Food Programme has suspended distribution as it reviews the security situation on the ground in Gaza. CNN previously reported more than 6,000 pallets of aid are currently awaiting distribution on the beach.

Singh said during a news conference on Friday that the marshalling yard where that aid is being held is “pretty close to full … in terms of how much aid is there.”

She also said USAID has been “having ongoing conversations” with the WFP over its pause in operations.

“We want to see distribution pick back up. We want to see aid delivered to the people that need it most. We certainly know and understand and are monitoring the dire humanitarian situation on the ground,” she said.

CNN previously reported that conversation about setting up a maritime corridor to bring aid into Gaza began near the end of October, following Hamas’ attack and the resulting offensive by Israeli forces in Gaza. The White House began exploring options including the feasibility of the temporary pier, which was deemed too risky at the time due to the weather conditions at that time of year and ongoing IDF operations.

The idea was revisited in January and February as the need for humanitarian aid in Gaza became more dire.

The pier was officially announced in March by President Joe Biden, who said in his State of the Union address that he was directing the military to build a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza. Within days, US Army watercraft had departed the US.

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