US ships operating Gaza humanitarian pier beach on Israel’s shores

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the approximate size of the USAV Matamoros.  

ASHDOD, Israel — Rescue operations were underway Saturday in Israel, as American and Israeli soldiers worked to release two beached U.S. army vessels that had washed ashore while working to build a floating pier outside the Gaza Strip.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement Saturday morning that “heavy sea states” caused four U.S. Army vessels to break free from their moorings. Two of the vessels were anchored by the pier in the Gaza Strip, while two other vessels beached on Israel’s shores.

The IDF is supporting the recovery efforts near the pier,” officials said in a statement. “No U.S. personnel will enter Gaza. No injuries have been reported and the pier remains fully functional. We will release additional details as they become available.”

The ships appeared to be Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM) Mark 8s, part of the watercraft unit that was helping to build and guide the pier.

A section of the pier was also beached, which could be used as a way for people to monitor the construction and movement.

The USAV Matamoros, a ship about half the size of a football field, moved offshore of the Ashdod beach, appearing to assist in the rescue operations. At one point, Israeli forces tried to use a small drone to deliver a rope out to the Matamoros, but had to abandon the effort when the rope got caught up in the surf.

The ship had left Fort Eustis, Va., in March as part of the fleet dispatched to build the floating pier.

The crash landing of the American army naval vessels on Israel’s beaches underscored the challenge to the Biden administration’s efforts to find alternate routes for humanitarian aid deliveries to the besieged ship.

The American ships landed in the southern Israel city of Ashdod, about 20 miles from Gaza’s northern border.

The strength of the sea on Saturday, with 1.6 meter swells and wind speeds between 10 and 20 knots, offered a real-life demonstration about how weather can impede what was already an extraordinarily challenge route for aid deliveries.

The ships are part of the Biden administration’s $320 million pier project to increase humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Aid began slowly flowing from the pier last week, an extraordinary effort to deliver food to Palestinians enduring a catastrophic humanitarian crisis amid nearly eight months of war following Hamas’s Oct. 7th terrorist attack against Israel.

U.S. officials acknowledged that the first few days of the pier’s operation failed to reach the scale of supplies they had hoped to deliver.

Humanitarian workers and aid groups have cited enormous challenges in providing assistance, with land crossings closed amid Israel’s military operations, lack of resources to deliver aid and manage its distribution, as well as threats to lives of aid workers operating in a theater of conflict.

The news also comes after three U.S. soldiers assigned to the pier mission were injured earlier this week, according to the Pentagon, including one whose injuries were serious enough to require a medical evacuation to Israel.

Updated on May 26 at 8:58 a.m. EDT

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