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Bad weather causing more delays for Gaza Pier project run by local troop

Soldiers from the 7th Army Transportation Brigade depart from Fort Eustis.
Steve Walsh
Soldiers from the 7th Army Transportation Brigade depart from Fort Eustis.

Storms have crippled the military project to use a mobile pier to deliver aid to Gaza.

Four Army boats washed ashore during a storm over the weekend. One boat was able to free itself but three boats remain on the beach in Gaza.

The Israeli Navy is working with the U.S. to free the vessels. The pier itself was damaged by weather Tuesday and is being removed for repairs that will last at least a week, said Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh.

“We believe, given the time of year, we will be able to re-anchor this pier and we will be able to be operational and hopefully weather conditions won’t hinder it anymore,” she said.

It has been a rocky start for the military project to run a mobile pier to provide aid to the starving population of Gaza. One soldier remains in critical condition and two others were injured Thursday on board the MV Roy P. Benavidez, which is based in Hampton Roads.

Soldiers from the Army 7th Transportation Brigade left Joint Base Langley-Eustis in March, just after President Joe Biden announced the operation in his State of the Union address. The 500 soldiers are part of 1,000 U.S. troops taking part in the operation.

Roughly 1,000 metric tons of humanitarian assistance have been delivered into Gaza since the operation began over a week ago. Weather has played a major role in slowing the operation, but the U.S. is committed to continuing to use the Army’s mobile pier system to deliver aid, Singh said.

“I can't predict that there won't be high seas again,” she said. “But when it was operational, it was working. And we just had sort of an unfortunate confluence of weather storms that made it inoperable for a bit. In just a little over a week, we should be back up and running.”

So far, the amount of aid reaching Gaza is less than the 90 to 150 truckloads per day that the Pentagon originally estimated. Several reports say that some trucks have also been overwhelmed on the road leading to warehouses coordinated by USAID and the World Food Program.

The Pentagon has not created a timeline for when the operation is expected to end, though the seas become increasingly rough in the eastern Mediterranean going into September.

Updated: May 29, 2024 at 2:27 PM EDT
According to a Defense Department official, the soldiers on board the Army boats which washed ashore Saturday in Gaza were rescued that same day. The information provided by Pentagon Deputy Spokesperson Sabrina Singh was incorrect.
Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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