Gaza pier repaired, U.S. ready to resume aid mission, Pentagon says

U.S. troops and their Israeli counterparts reattached a floating pier to the Gaza coastline Friday, officials said, as the United States prepares to resume a humanitarian operation that has faced numerous setbacks.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, a senior U.S. military officer overseeing the mission, told reporters that deliveries of food and other badly needed supplies will begin “in coming days.” The first push will include 500,000 pounds of aid, he said, with thousands of tons more in the pipeline behind it.

Sections of the steel pier were damaged May 25 by powerful waves measuring upward of five feet. The mission was suspended days later after the structure broke apart.

U.S. troops transported its pieces to the nearby Israeli port of Ashdod, north of Gaza, and have spent more than a week reassembling it. The Pentagon assessed that the pier suffered at least $22 million in damage, defense officials said.

Aid deliveries over the pier began around the middle of last month under duress and behind schedule due to bad weather. Pentagon officials anticipate a stretch of better weather ahead.

Days before the mission was halted, four U.S. Army vessels supporting the mission ran aground, and a separate accident at sea — which the Pentagon has yet to fully explain — left a U.S. service member badly injured. The service member remained in critical condition as of Friday at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas.

The Biden administration has defended the project as an essential component of an all-of-the-above approach to get food and other necessities to Gazan civilians as Israel continues its war there against the militant group Hamas. About 1,000 tons of aid were delivered over the pier before the mission was suspended.

Critics have said the administration’s embrace of the approach and the challenges that go with it underscore that it is not doing enough to pressure Israel to open more land crossings into Gaza. Administration officials have agreed that more land crossings need to be opened, but said it is embracing every option available to help civilians caught in the crossfire, including the pier and airdrops by U.S. cargo planes.

“Why wouldn’t we try this?” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said during a White House news briefing last week. “If we had this capability, and it was available to us, we have the know-how and the expertise to do it, why would we leave that on the sidelines?”

The floating pier is connected to land with a steel causeway. Such missions have had an enduring limitation of operating in seas that are no more than two to three feet high, according to several past assessment in U.S. military journals. It is unclear how U.S. commanders will respond if heavy sea states occur again.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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