US military considers temporarily dismantling pier off coast of Gaza for second time due to rough sea conditions

The US military is considering temporarily dismantling the humanitarian pier it constructed off the coast of Gaza and moving it back to Israel on Friday amid concerns that heavy seas could once again break it just days after it resumed aid delivery operations, multiple US officials said.

It would be the second time in a matter of weeks that the fragile pier and causeway system, known as Joint Logistics over the Shore or JLOTS, has had to be moved back to the Israeli port of Ashdod. A final decision is not expected to be made until Friday, officials said.

Earlier this month, the pier broke apart and sustained damage in heavy seas and had to be towed to Ashdod for repairs that took over a week. It was moved back to Gaza last week and resumed operations on Saturday but had to pause again due to heavy seas on Monday and Tuesday.

To date, the pier has been used to move thousands of tons of aid into Gaza, officials have said. But the pier’s ability to operate effectively is heavily dependent on favorable sea conditions, CNN has previously reported, and officials said on Thursday that current forecasts indicate that the waters will be rough on Friday and into the weekend.

Officials have told CNN that sea conditions in the eastern Mediterranean will only worsen as fall and winter approach, raising questions about the pier’s realistic lifespan.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme’s aid distribution operations at the pier have been suspended for days and aid has been piling up in the staging area on the beach in Gaza, officials said this week.

WFP Director Cindy McCain announced on Sunday the organization was pausing its work there after the IDF operation in Gaza that rescued four hostages held by Hamas and left scores of Palestinian civilians dead, and prompted disinformation that the pier was used as part of that operation. The Pentagon acknowledged that there was some Israeli military activity “nearby” to the staging area for the pier but denied that the pier was used in the operation.

“Right now, we’re paused because I’m concerned about the safety of our people after the incidents yesterday,” she told CBS on Sunday.

The operations will remain paused pending a risk assessment, which is ongoing. A source familiar said the UN was already conducting a broader risk assessment in Gaza, then after what happened on Saturday with the IDF operations near the pier, they decided to add the specific risk assessment on the pier operations. Once the assessment is completed, it will go to the Department of Safety and Security and the humanitarian coordinator to make a decision on whether to resume operations at the pier.

Humanitarian officials say while any assistance getting into the Gaza strip is useful, the pier is not a sustainable mode for doing so. The Israeli government for months refused to open additional land crossings for aid into Gaza, and only did so after immense pressure by the US government in recent months. Even with additional openings, major obstacles to distribution within the Gaza strip remain and humanitarian officials tell CNN that there is still not an effective deconfliction method to protect aid workers.

“A very expensive distraction,” one humanitarian aid official said of the pier.

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