U.S. military personnel construct a floating pier in the Mediterranean Sea off the Gaza Strip in April 2024.

U.S. military personnel construct a floating pier in the Mediterranean Sea off the Gaza Strip in April 2024. (U.S. Army Central Command)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has completed construction on the floating pier off Gaza’s coast, but weather conditions make it unsafe to put the temporary dock in place to begin transporting more humanitarian aid into the war-torn enclave, the Pentagon said.

“As of today, the construction of the two portions of the JLOTS — the floating pier and the Trident pier — are complete and awaiting final movement offshore,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters Tuesday. “Today, there are still forecasted high winds and high sea swells, which are causing unsafe conditions for the JLOTS components to be moved.”

The pier, known as Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, or JLOTS, is meant to provide a new way to deliver badly needed aid into Gaza. The World Health Organization has warned some 2.3 million Gazans face extreme hunger that could become a full-blown famine by next month as Israel continues its war against Hamas militants who launched a surprise assault in October from the enclave.

President Joe Biden first announced the JLOTS operation on March 7 during his State of the Union speech. One day later, Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, said the temporary pier would be operational within about 60 days.

U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, said Friday in a post on X that construction on the pier was paused Thursday due to “sea state considerations.” Construction of the pier moved to the Port of Ashdod, one of Israel’s three main cargo ports north of Gaza.

Singh said the pier sections and military vessels involved in the construction are still positioned at the Port of Ashdod. In the meantime, the U.S. is loading aid on the ship, MV Sagamore, currently in Cyprus.

“The Sagamore is a cargo vessel that will use the JLOTS system and will make trips between Cyprus and the offshore floating pier as [U.S. Agency for International Development] and other partners collect aid from around the world,” she said.

Singh said defense officials hope to have the pier in position later this week.

About 1,000 American troops are involved in the operation of the pier, which costs about $320 million.

The Pentagon has stressed no U.S. troops will be on the ground in Gaza, but some lawmakers have raised concerns about the involvement of American troops in Israel’s campaign in Gaza and risks to their safety.

Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, blasted the pier project last week and said troops working on its construction are within range of Hamas rockets. Following a mortar attack last month near the area where the pier will connect with the shore, Wicker called it “unfortunate but predictable.”

“This has been an ill-conceived mission from the start. President Biden should never have put our men and women in this position, and he should abandon this project immediately before any U.S. troops are injured,” he said.

The Army in March sent four ships from the 7th Transportation Brigade at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., toward the Mediterranean Sea to spearhead the operation. The Navy deployed three ships to help in the construction of the pier. One of those ships, the USNS 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo was forced to return to the United States last month after it had an engine room fire.

Once the pier is operational, commercial ships carrying aid will sail from Cyprus to the floating dock, where the aid will then be moved to smaller Army boats that will travel to the causeway and on to aid groups. The new port is located southwest of Gaza City.

American troops will be housed and fed on ships near the floating pier. The British navy announced toward the end of April that a support ship, RFA Cardigan Bay, was sailing to provide accommodation for hundreds of U.S. sailors and soldiers working to establish the platform.

The U.S. military has said it will provide its own security for Army and Navy forces offshore, while Israel will take care of security on shore.

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Matthew Adams covers the Defense Department at the Pentagon. His past reporting experience includes covering politics for The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and The News and Observer. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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