Biden Ordering US Military To Build Port In Gaza To Facilitate Aid


By Patsy Widakuswara

President Joe Biden will use his State of the Union address late Thursday to announce that he has directed the U.S. military to build a port in Gaza to facilitate delivery of critically needed aid for Palestinians displaced and suffering amid Israeli’s military campaign against Hamas. 

The main feature of this port is a temporary pier which will provide capacity for hundreds of additional truckloads of assistance each day, with initial shipments coming via Cyprus with support of the U.S. military and a coalition of partners and allies, said a senior administration official briefing reporters Thursday. 

“We will coordinate with the Israelis on the security requirements on land and work with the U.N. and humanitarian NGOs on the distribution of assistance within Gaza,” the official said. “This new significant capability will take a number of weeks to plan and execute. The forces that will be required to complete this mission are either already in the region or will begin to move there soon.” 

The official said that there will be no American boots on the ground in Gaza. Instead, the U.S. military will employ its “unique capabilities” to establish the facilities from offshore. 

“The concept that’s been planned involves the presence of U.S. military personnel on military vessels offshore but does not require U.S. military personnel to go ashore to install the pier or [a] causeway facility that will allow the transportation of humanitarian assistance ashore,” said a senior defense official in the same press briefing. 

Defense officials told VOA the most likely option to build a port in Gaza would be to use the Army’s Joint Logistics Over the Shore, or JLOTS. Described by one official as “the Army’s little unicorn,” JLOTS allows Army teams to carry floating pier pieces by ship, which are pieced together in the water. 

Building a port and delivering aid via sea is “a mammoth step” in expanding humanitarian aid delivery channels and could have “a transformative impact,” said Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, an analyst from Gaza. 

It signals Biden’s seriousness about ending the humanitarian catastrophe, Alkhatib told VOA, and is “a historic development” because it will be the first time in a contemporary context that Gaza will have a functioning seaport. 

“The maritime corridor option bypasses complete reliance on Israel and Egypt to bring in aid, creating a new path that the regional and international players can use to send in critical supplies,” he said. 

It’s unclear whether the plan will be enough to appease progressive Democrats, and Arab and Muslim Americans outraged by Biden’s unconditional support of Israel. 

Airdrop aid

The United States has made three airdrops of humanitarian aid using military planes and parachutes, following Biden’s order last week in joining other countries that have delivered aid in such a manner. He noted the “tragic and alarming event in North Gaza” where Israeli troops opened fire while a crowd of Palestinians was scrambling to get food from an aid convoy. More than 100 people died in the chaos.

“People are so desperate that – innocent people got caught in terrible war, unable to feed their families, and you saw the response when they tried to get aid,” Biden said in a rare rebuke to Israel. 

There has been mounting frustration within the administration over Israel’s insistence on inspections that have slowed the delivery of aid, even as U.N. experts warned that the situation in Gaza is dire and close to famine. 

“We are not waiting on the Israelis. This is a moment for American leadership, and we are building a coalition of countries to address this urgent need,” said a second senior administration official, also briefing reporters. 

The officials said Biden will also use his address to Congress to spotlight the plight of Israeli hostages held by Hamas, and push for a temporary cease-fire deal before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which begins this weekend. The onus of the agreement, the administration says, is in the hands of the U.S.-designated terror group.

“We recognize that extremists could try to use Ramadan to spark something that would be deeply unfortunate in that holy month, and we want to make sure that we have a peaceful period so people can worship,” the first senior administration official said, underscoring that it is still uncertain whether a deal can be reached by then. 

VOA’s Carla Babb contributed to this report.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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