US to construct temporary port for Gaza aid delivery

President Joe Biden announced in his State of the Union address on Thursday that the U.S. military will construct a temporary port along Gaza's Mediterranean coast to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid by sea.

Publication: 08.03.2024 - 15:28
US to construct temporary port for Gaza aid delivery
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The operation, planned initially from Cyprus, will proceed without deploying U.S. military personnel to Gaza.

The announcement aims to mitigate frustration within the Democratic Party concerning Biden's support for Israel amid its Gaza offensive starting Oct. 7, which has resulted in significant civilian casualties in the Palestinian enclave.

Before the address, senior administration officials indicated that ongoing negotiations for a six-week ceasefire and the release of hostages between Israel and Hamas were stalled. They attributed the delay to Hamas' refusal to release sick and elderly captives, even though the ceasefire proposal has been on the negotiation table in Egypt for over a week, aiming to provide "immediate relief to the people of Gaza."

The decision to construct the temporary port responds to UN warnings about a looming famine in Gaza, affecting its 2.3 million residents after nearly five months of conflict, which has devastated large areas and displaced most of the population.

Biden, in his speech, noted that over 30,000 Palestinians, mostly non-Hamas, including "thousands and thousands of innocent women and children," had been killed. He directed the U.S. military to lead an emergency mission to establish a "temporary pier" on Gaza's coast for receiving ships loaded with food, water, medicine, and temporary shelters, emphasizing that "No U.S. boots will be on the ground."

The U.S. plans to collaborate with European, regional partners, and allies to form an international coalition contributing capabilities and funding. Israel has expressed full support for the temporary dock's deployment, ensuring coordination between both parties.

Sigrid Kaag, the UN's humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, welcomed the U.S. initiative, underscoring that maritime aid does not replace the need for land access, which remains crucial.

Despite Israel increasing aid truck admissions into Gaza and various countries conducting airdrops, officials note the assistance is still inadequate. The U.S. aims to bolster humanitarian aid through the temporary port, coordinating with the UN and aid organizations for effective distribution within Gaza. The operation's planning and execution are expected to take several weeks, with necessary U.S. forces either already in the region or on their way.

This effort builds on a Cypriot initiative to collect humanitarian aid in Larnaca, allowing Israeli officials to screen shipments before they proceed to Gaza, with plans to transition the temporary military-run facility to commercial operation eventually.

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