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Biden to direct military to build Gaza Port to deliver aid

Children carry kitchen utensils as they walk toward a food distribution point in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on March 7, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (-/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

President Joe Biden is directing the U.S. military to establish a temporary port on the Gaza coast to ramp up the delivery of aid and ease the humanitarian crisis in the territory sparked by the Israel-Hamas war, according to senior administration officials.

Biden will announce the steps in his State of the Union address on Thursday night, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to detail the plans.

The ships will carry food, water, medicine and other supplies, according to the officials, who said the temporary pier will provide capacity equivalent to hundreds of truckloads of additional assistance each day. U.S. officials plan for control of the port to transition to a commercially operated facility over time.

Biden’s bid is only the latest effort by the U.S. to address the dire conditions for the 2 million Gazans following Israel’s military campaign to root out Hamas, which is labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. and European Union, after its deadly Oct. 7 attack.

The initiative will get underway as soon as Biden issues the order, the administration officials said. Building a temporary port has been described as a daunting undertaking. Officials cautioned Thursday that it would take weeks to build the facility and deliver the aid. They said the project would involve U.S. military personnel on vessels offshore but wouldn’t require American forces to go onshore.

Initial shipments will come through Cyprus, aides said, which has the capability to screen shipments. Israel already was expected to approve a new aid effort that could get underway soon, with provisions from the United Arab Emirates being transported to Gaza from Cyprus.

The move indicates a shift in strategy for the U.S., which had previously sought to persuade Israel to allow more aid to get to Gaza by land. But Biden has grown frustrated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the crisis in Gaza has gotten more dire, and has focused on workarounds.

Last week, the U.S. began airdropping aid into the territory. The Defense Department has executed three airdrops into Gaza, including as recently as Thursday. Those provided 192 bundles with more than 112,000 meals, and more airdrops are planned in the coming days. But aid groups have said airdrops are a limited and inefficient way to provide relief.

U.S. forces are already in the region or will begin to move there soon, the officials said. The U.S. will work with like-minded countries, the United Nations and humanitarian partners to distribute the assistance and will coordinate with the Israelis on the security on land near the port, they said.


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