Austin Says It’s ‘Possible’ That US Troops on Gaza Pier End Up in a Shooting War

US officials say the pier will be operational next week

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin acknowledged on Tuesday that it was a possibility that the 1,000 US troops deployed off the coast of Gaza as part of a project to build a pier could come under fire and said they would be able to shoot back.

Austin made the comments in an exchange with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) at a House Armed Services Committee hearing. “They have the right to return fire to protect themselves,” Austin said.

When asked if it was likely that US troops would come under attack from someone in Gaza, Austin said, “That’s possible, yes.”

The staging area for the pier has already come under mortar attack. Nobody was hurt in the incident, and only minor damage was reported, but it highlights the risk to the US troops just off the coast of Gaza.

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza view the US as a party to the conflict since it provides most of the bombs Israel has been dropping on Gaza. The US also provides intelligence sharing and strong political support for the slaughter of Palestinians.

Austin insisted there would be no US “boots on the ground” in Gaza, but Gaetz said the pier deployment was not much different than putting troops in the Strip. “I think you’re gonna find the American people have a different perspective on that. And if we’re gonna have people shooting into Gaza, we probably should have a vote on that, pursuant to our war powers,” Gaetz said.

The US is expected to spend at least $320 million on the pier in Gaza. President Biden ordered its construction to allow more aid into the Strip instead of pressuring Israel to open more land border crossings.

Senior US officials told CNN that the pier would be anchored miles off Gaza’s coast and would receive shipments from Cyprus. Then, the aid will be delivered to smaller US Army boats that will take it to a causeway attached to the shore of Gaza, putting US personnel very close to the coast. Trucks driven by an unnamed partner country would pick up the aid and drive it down the 100-meter-long causeway.

The US military published photos of the pier being built on Tuesday, and US officials say they expect it to be operational by next week.

According to a report from The Jerusalem Post, the idea to build the pier actually came from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who proposed it to Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides in October. A reporter for Israel’s Kan news said last month that during a meeting of the Knessett’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, Netanyahu suggested using the pier to remove Palestinians from Gaza.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.