US Gaza pier knocked out of action by heavy seas

US military vessel run aground in Gaza
Two US military vessels supporting the pier ran aground amid heavy seas last week. [Getty Images]

A temporary pier built by the US military to deliver aid to Gaza has been damaged by heavy seas and will take at least a week to be repaired, according to US officials.

US forces began building the floating pier - which is attached to Gaza's shoreline by a temporary causeway - several weeks ago.

The causeway portion of the project has now reportedly broken off and will have to be repaired before being returned to its position.

Humanitarian organisations have warned that the amount of aid reaching Palestinians in Gaza is only a fraction of what is required to meet the needs of its population.

The pier, which was first announced by US officials in March, is comprised of two main components: a large floating dock made up of steel segments and a two-lane, 1,800ft (548m) causeway and pier.

The causeway part of the project is composed of a series of interconnected, 40ft (12m) steel pieces linked together and attached to shore.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon confirmed that a portion of the causeway broke away in heavy seas.

While it is tethered to Gaza's shoreline, the piece will need to be removed and taken to the Israeli port of Ashod to be repaired before it can be re-attached to the causeway and back in action.

According to Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh, the pier will be removed over the next two days with the help of the Israeli navy.

The repairs will take more than a week, she added.

Ms Singh said weather conditions in the area had not created an "optimal environment" for the pier's deployment, but that defence officials remain confident it would be operational again soon.

"I can't predict the weather," she said. “But we believe that given the time of year, we will be able to re-anchor this pier."

Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence for the Middle East and one of the founders of Fogbow, a private firm involved in the Gaza pier plan, told the BBC that weather-related delays were "expected" to "pose challenges".

"But those challenges can be overcome, and the mission itself is worth the effort," he said. "People are in desperate need of aid and this is one means to deliver it."

On 17 May, the US military confirmed that the first shipments of humanitarian aid were delivered into Gaza via the pier, but in a separate incident last weekend four vessels supporting the pier became unmoored in "heavy sea states", beaching two of them.

In an earlier incident, three US soldiers taking part in the Gaza pier mission were also injured, one of whom was in critical condition and evacuated to a hospital in Israel.

The Reuters news agency quoted the UN World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson as saying that the UN has transported a total of 137 lorries of aid from the pier - approximately 900 metric tonnes - since it began operating.

At the White House on Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the pier was never expected to "supplant" aid reaching Gaza via land crossings, but instead could be a "force multiplier".

The Pentagon estimates that more than 1,000 tonnes have been delivered to shore, with just over 900 tonnes reaching UN warehouses.

Despite mounting concerns over the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he remains committed to "total victory" in Rafah, Hamas' last remaining urban stronghold in the south of the strip.

Israel's military campaign in Gaza began after gunmen from Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 252 others to Gaza as hostages.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war since then, according to Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry.