US military pier for Gaza to shift construction because of weather

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Navy personnel construct a JLOTS to assist aid to Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Friday it was temporarily pausing the offshore construction of a maritime pier because of weather conditions and instead would continue building it at the Israeli port of Ashdod.

The maritime pier, once built, will be placed off the coast of Gaza in a bid to speed the flow of humanitarian aid into the enclave.

"Forecasted high winds and high sea swells caused unsafe conditions for soldiers working on the surface of the partially constructed pier," the U.S. military said in a statement.

"The partially built pier and military vessels involved in its construction have moved to the Port of Ashdod, where assembly will continue," it added.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon said about 50% of the pier had been constructed.

Israel has launched a relentless assault on Gaza, killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, local health authorities say, in a bombardment that has reduced the enclave to a wasteland.

Israel has sought to demonstrate it is not blocking aid to Gaza, especially since President Joe Biden issued a stark warning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying Washington’s policy could shift if Israel fails to take steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.

U.S. officials and aid groups say some progress has been made but warn it is insufficient, amid stark warnings of imminent famine among Gaza's 2.3 million people.

The war began when Palestinian Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 others, according to Israeli tallies.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Jonathan Oatis)