Troubled US military pier near Gaza to be permanently removed as soon as next week, US officials say

The US military pier off the coast of Gaza is set to be permanently removed as soon as next week, according to four US officials, after it is reconnected one more time to deliver any remaining humanitarian aid in Cyprus and on the floating dock several miles offshore.

The $230 million temporary pier operation, which has been plagued with problems since its inception, has been at the Israeli port of Ashdod for nearly two weeks because the Pentagon decided sea conditions were too rough for it to operate. Last month marked the third time that the pier has been disconnected from Gaza because of inclement weather.

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the plan was to “tentatively” reattach the pier sometime “this week,” which will “enable the delivery of additional aid into Gaza.” Officials said the pier could be reconnected for the last time as soon as Wednesday.

But once the remaining aid is delivered, the pier is expected to be removed from the coast of Gaza and the operation, which began in mid-May, will end, officials said. Since the pier began operations, more than 19.4 million pounds of humanitarian aid have been delivered via the pier to the collection area in Gaza.

Its removal will mark the end of a highly anticipated, but deeply troubled effort to flow humanitarian aid to the population of Gaza. The US began building the floating pier in late April with the help of some 1,000 US soldiers and sailors. US officials have emphasized that the pier was only meant to be a temporary measure aimed at supplementing land routes from Israel and Egypt into Gaza, which are often closed or gridlocked because of extensive Israeli inspections.

The Associated Press first reported the plans to permanently remove the pier.

Officials had anticipated that the US military would operate the pier for about three months from the time it became operational in mid-May, but heavy sea states routinely disrupted the pier’s operations, and distribution of the aid once it reached Gaza proved challenging and dangerous for aid workers.

Aid delivered to Gaza via the pier piled up on the beach for several weeks last month as the World Food Programme evaluated whether it was safe to distribute inside the enclave. The Israel Defense Forces had early on agreed to provide a wide security perimeter around the pier system and the aid operation, but an Israeli hostage rescue operation very nearby the pier in early June raised additional security concerns for aid workers.

The aid distribution restarted late last month, after millions of pounds of aid — roughly 6,000 pallets worth — had accumulated on the Gaza shoreline, CNN previously reported.

The Pentagon and USAID inspectors general have launched coordinated reviews of the pier operation, they announced last month. The review comes as some congressional Republicans have railed against the troubled pier as a “waste of taxpayer dollars” that “defies all logic.”

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