US to build pier off Gaza coast that will allow for maritime delivery of aid — officials

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

A Palestinian fisherman arrives with a boat at the port Gaza City early on December 1, 2022. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)
A Palestinian fisherman arrives with a boat at the port Gaza City early on December 1, 2022. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

US President Joe Biden will announce in his State of the Union address tonight that he has directed the US military to embark on an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza that will allow for the direct delivery of humanitarian assistance from the Mediterranean Sea, senior administration officials tell reporters on a briefing call.

The idea for a marine humanitarian corridor into Gaza has been floated for years, but never got off the ground due to Israeli reticence and concerns that the existing Gaza City fishing port isn’t equipped for docking large ships. The US made a renewed push for the corridor establishment following last week’s deadly mass-casualty incident where dozens of Palestinians were killed trying to collect aid in northern Gaza.

Believing that the best way to ensure civilians receive aid is by flooding the strip with assistance by land, air and sea, the US has airdropped food over Gaza three times since Saturday, and will over the coming weeks begin work to establish a causeway facility off the coast of Gaza that will be able to receive large ships carrying hundreds of truckloads of food, water, medicine and temporary shelters each day, according to the administration officials.

The US is coordinating with Israel to ensure its security concerns are met and with the UN and humanitarian organizations on the ground in order to ensure that the aid is properly distributed.

Initial shipments will arrive to the port via Cyprus’s Larnaca Port, where they will ostensibly undergo security inspections.

It will take “a number of weeks” to get the temporary pier built and running, one of the officials briefing reporters said, adding that the US hopes that the port will turn into “a commercially operated facility over time.”

The officials clarified that the project will not require US boots on the ground in Gaza. Instead, US military personnel will be present on vessels offshore while the pier is being built.

“We’re 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,” one of the senior officials says.

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