In a recent development on the Gaza pier mission, a U.S. soldier sustained serious injuries and was promptly evacuated to Israel for medical treatment, according to two defense officials who confirmed the incident to USNI News.

The soldier was actively engaged in operations on the staging platform located two miles off the coast of Gaza. This platform serves as a vital link in the delivery of aid packages, as trucks carry supplies from cargo ships onto Army watercraft, as shared by the defense officials. At the time of the injury, the roll-on roll-off cargo ship MV Benevides was attached to the platform.

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During a Thursday Pentagon briefing, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, disclosed that a total of three service members suffered non-combat-related injuries at sea. Cooper further elaborated, “Three injuries, two were very minor injuries, and those individuals returned to duty. One individual is undergoing care at a local Israeli hospital.”

Officials made no mention of any direct attacks or incidents targeting the pier or the staging area just off the coast.

The Gaza pier has been operational since last week, attempting to provide aid to the region. As part of the logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) mission announced during  Joe Biden’s State of the Union address three months ago, Army watercraft and Navy transport ships departed for the Mediterranean in March. This joint effort includes the U.S. Army’s 7th Transportation Brigade and the U.S. Navy’s Naval Beach Group One.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Cooper and a representative from the U.S. Agency for International Development summarized the initial week of humanitarian pier operations. Daniel Dieckhaus, USAID’s Levant response management team director, highlighted the complexity of the maritime corridor as it facilitates the movement of aid to impartial humanitarian organizations for distribution throughout Palestinian communities in Gaza.

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Cooper emphasized that there are no U.S. personnel directly involved in the on-ground distribution within Gaza, underlining that humanitarian workers are solely responsible for those phases of the operation.

Since Friday, 820 tons of aid have been delivered to Gaza, with 506 tons distributed by the United Nations. Dieckhaus stressed that the multinational humanitarian maritime corridor is not intended to replace land crossings but rather serve as an essential augmentation. Out of the 70 truckloads of assistance delivered to Gaza on Wednesday, 23 came from the pier.

Both officials disputed reports of looting incidents involving aid trucks after departing the coastal distribution area. Dieckhaus clarified that such incidents represent a minority of overall shipments. Cooper added that, of the 54 trucks dispatched from the humanitarian maritime corridor in the last two days, only one encountered an incident.

Undeniably, operating in the midst of an active warzone presents numerous challenges. Cooper cited a temporary pause in humanitarian activities due to a Hamas drone attack on the Israeli Defense Forces a few miles away from the pier, although the attack did not directly affect U.S. forces or the pier itself. It did, however, cause delays in aid convoys.

To support the operation, approximately 1000 personnel and 16 ships have been dedicated by U.S. forces, including the deployment of at least one counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar system on the pier. While specifics regarding force protection were not disclosed, Cooper characterized the deployment of such systems as prudent planning.

The Israeli Defense Forces play a vital role in providing security for the operation, with a dedicated brigade of troops and various air and naval assets. In addition, two U.S. Navy destroyers will assist in protecting the pier, according to Military.com.

While challenges persist, the commitment to deliver aid and assistance to Gaza remains steadfast. As the mission progresses, efforts continue to navigate the complexities to ensure aid reaches those in need, even in the face of adversity.

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