US set to close $230m floating pier in Gaza

Officials have reportedly warned aid agencies the temporary facility may be dismantled

The pier, which was ordered by US president Joe Biden in March, has only operated on 10 days since being opened in mid-May. Photograph: US Central Command/AP

The $230-million temporary pier erected by the US off the coast of Gaza could shut down within weeks after failing to deliver desperately needed food and medical supplies to 2.3 million Palestinians.

US officials have reportedly warned aid agencies the pier may be dismantled ahead of the scheduled closure date in September, after which rough seas would make it inoperable.

The pier, which was ordered by US president Joe Biden in March, has only operated on 10 days since being opened in mid-May. Damage by rough seas forced work to be suspended twice and it was towed into the Israeli port of Ashdod for repairs.

Meanwhile, independent aid agencies have been reluctant to use the facility due to collaboration between the US and Israel over the pier.


The World Food Programme, which coordinates operations, has paused deliveries since June 4th after Israel helicoptered four hostages rescued from Hamas to the pier’s onshore base. During the raid to free the hostages, Israel attacked Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp, killing more than 270 Palestinians, the Gaza health authorities reported.

US officials argue the pier was only every supposed to act as a stopgap measure while the Biden administration pushed Israel to allow more food and other supplies into Gaza through land routes. Last week, the US House of Representatives advanced twin bills to defund the pier project.

Palestinian refugee agency Unrwa has warned that Gaza’s hospitals lack medicines to treat more than 50,000 children for acute malnutrition. Unwra’s operations director for Gaza, Scott Anderson, cautioned that “the law-and-order environment in Gaza is not enabling the efficient delivery of aid”.

The most effective way of getting aid into Gaza currently is by land, although only two of the five official crossings from Israel into Gaza remain open and convoys continue to be threatened by fighting and pillaged by starving Palestinians. Incidents of looting soared after Israeli snipers fired at Gazan police accompanying lorries and they were left unguarded.

The Israeli army last weekend opened an aid route along Salaheddin road from the Kerem Shalom crossing to Khan Younis in Gaza from 8am to 7pm each day.

Israel said 62 commercial trucks used the corridor on Tuesday, while the head of UN humanitarian affairs in Gaza, Georgios Petropoulos, told CNN the road has been “used by the UN to move goods for days”.

However, UN children’s fund spokesman James Elder said the Israeli army’s initiative could not replace a ceasefire.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times