US Soldier Critically Injured in Noncombat Incident on Gaza Pier

A U.S. Army soldier guides a aid truck bound for Gaza
A U.S. Army soldier guides a aid truck bound for Gaza from the Roll-on Roll-off Distribution Facility to the MV Roy P. Benavidez, May 18, 2024. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Malcolm Cohens-Ashley.)

A U.S. soldier deployed on the Gaza pier mission is in critical condition after being injured in a noncombat-related incident Thursday and evacuated to a hospital in Israel, a defense official confirmed to

Two other soldiers were also injured and have since returned to duty.

According to the official, the injury occurred on the staging platform two miles off the coast of Gaza that was being used to transfer aid from the large cargo ship MV Roy P. Benavidez to smaller Army watercraft that would go on to move the aid to the causeway at the Gaza shoreline.

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USNI News was the first outlet to report that the injury occurred on the staging platform. The critically injured soldier had not been identified as of Friday afternoon. Names are typically withheld until the family is notified.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters Thursday that three service members had been recently injured during the aid operation, but he refused to offer details on the most serious injury.

"One was simply a sprained ankle, the other guy ... was a hurt back ... and I won't get into the details of the other one," Cooper said.

When pressed for more details, Cooper cited privacy concerns but refused to even say what branch any of the injured service members were from.

U.S. Central Command later released a brief statement that claimed the serious injury actually occurred on the Benavidez and not the staging platform.

The Army finished building the floating pier -- called a Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, or JLOTS, operation -- earlier this month. It was installed to flow humanitarian aid into Gaza to help Palestinians facing starvation as food and other supplies have dried up in the midst of the Israel-Hamas war.

However, the plan has been criticized by various groups. Those concerned with the welfare of the Palestinian people have argued the effort is insufficient to stave off the mass starvation that the area now faces. Others have argued that the effort needlessly puts American troops in harm's way or expressed concern about the condition of the JLOTS equipment.

At a media event Thursday, officials said that, since the JLOTS pier opened, 820 metric tons of aid have been delivered to the beach and 506 metric tons of aid have been distributed from the beach transfer point to the people of Gaza by the United Nations.

Daniel Dieckhaus, the director for USAID's Levant Response Management Team, said that "by our calculation, that is sufficient food to feed tens of thousands of people for a month."

In contrast, U.S. Central Command has dropped around 1,220 tons of aid via airdrops between March and May.

However, international experts have told The Associated Press that all 2.3 million residents of Gaza are now experiencing acute food shortages and around half are at "catastrophic" levels.

The detailed figures came after reports of at least one truck being looted of its aid after leaving the pier area. Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, told reporters earlier in the week that he couldn't say whether the aid was reaching Palestinians.

Dieckhaus said that "the desired impact that we are shooting for -- that requires a lot to fall into place that we're working on -- is feeding and assisting at least 500,000 people or more per month via the maritime corridor."

"It's a worthwhile goal, it's a high goal. We hope to exceed it, but a lot goes into that," he added.

Related: Pentagon Says No Food Aid Moved Through Gaza Pier Has Made It to Palestinians

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