Military pier off Gaza likely to cease operations in coming days: US officials

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military's temporary pier will be reattached to a beach in Gaza on Wednesday and will likely be removed permanently a few days later, three U.S. officials told ABC News.

The $230 million pier system, known as Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS), had been authorized to remain operational in Gaza through July 31 and, despite U.S. officials openly discussing it remaining operational beyond that date, it now appears it will cease operation before even reaching the end of the month.

The three U.S. officials told ABC News the pier will be reattached to the beach just southwest of Gaza City on Wednesday and that after a few days of operations to transport humanitarian aid from Cyprus, the pier will likely be shut down for good. Cyprus was the gathering point for aid provided by international aid organizations to be vetted by Israeli security before its transport via JLOTS into Gaza.

The system's deployment to Gaza was announced by President Joe Biden during his State of the Union speech earlier this year with the hope it would be a "maritime corridor" to help bring humanitarian aid into Gaza, especially as major land routes were closed by Israel, citing security concerns.

But rough seas interrupted the pier's operations for lengthy stretches of time that have left it operational for only 23 of the 53 days since it was anchored on May 17.

The temporary structure, built to rise and fall with the waves, has had to be moved several times to the Israeli port of Ashdod due to rough seas -- including once because portions of the pier broke and it had to be repaired.

The pier has been in Ashdod since June 28, when it was moved for the third time due to rough sea conditions.

Prior to its move away from the beach on June 28, the pier system had delivered more than 19.4 million pounds of humanitarian aid into Gaza, according to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). But a very large portion of it had begun to gather at the staging area on the beach, since the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) had refused to pick up the aid.

Aid organizations have said one of the issues is that there's no system to distribute the aid once it arrives. WFP had struck an agreement with the military to deliver the aid that arrives via the pier, as Biden has insisted that no U.S. troops deploy on shore in Gaza. But WFP temporarily suspended operations in June, pending a security review, and has not resumed operations.

On Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesman said that while the pier was in Ashdod, WFP had significantly reduced the amount of aid at the staging area and moved it to its warehouses in Gaza for distribution.

Any remaining humanitarian aid still at Cyprus will be delivered to Gaza in the coming days, after which its operations will likely end for good, according to the U.S. officials.

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