Thursday, July 25, 2024

The US Army enters a new phase in Gaza aid operations


The United States has a history of using its military to deliver food, water, and other humanitarian aid to civilians during wars or natural disasters. The walls of the Pentagon are decorated with photographs of such operations in Haiti, Liberia, Indonesia and countless other countries.

But it is rare for the United States to attempt to provide such services to people being bombed, with tacit American support.

President Biden's decision to order the US military to build a floating dock off the Gaza Strip that would allow aid to be delivered by sea puts US service members in a new phase in the history of humanitarian aid. The same army that sends the weapons and bombs that Israel uses in Gaza is now sending food and water to the besieged area.

The idea of ​​the floating dock came a week after Biden allowed airdrops of humanitarian aid to Gaza, which relief experts criticized as insufficient. Relief experts say even a floating dock will not do enough to alleviate suffering in the region, where residents are on the brink of starvation.

However, senior Biden officials said, the United States will continue to supply Israel with the munitions it uses in Gaza, while trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians being bombed there.

So the Pentagon is doing both.

For decades, the Army Corps of Engineers, using combat engineers, has built floating docks for troops to cross rivers, unload supplies, and conduct other military operations. Major General Patrick S. said: Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday that the Army's 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, near Norfolk, Virginia, will be one of the main military units involved in the operation. Construction of the floating dock for Gaza.

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General Ryder said that the dock will be built and assembled alongside an army ship off the coast of Gaza. Defense Ministry officials said that the ship will need armed guarding, especially since it is located within the coast, adding that they are working on how to ensure its protection.

Typically in these operations, a large ship is set up offshore the desired location, and a “roll-off offloading facility” — a large floating dock — is set up next to the ship to service it, a U.S. Army official said. As a holding area. Goods pushed or placed on the dock are loaded onto smaller sea boats and transported towards a temporary dock or bridge moored on the beach.

The 1,800-foot-long, two-lane temporary bridge was built by Army engineers, surrounded by tugboats and driven, or “stabbed,” to shore. The cargo on board small naval boats could then be transported to the bridge and onto the beach.

General Ryder insisted on Friday that the military could build the bridge and stab it into the beach without putting any American boots — or fins — on the ground in Gaza. He said it would take up to 60 days and about 1,000 U.S. troops to move the ship into place from the East Coast and build the pier and bridge.

A Defense Ministry official said that after the ship reaches shore, it will take seven to 10 days to assemble the floating dock and bridge.

He added: “This is part of a full push by the United States to not only focus on working to open and expand roads across the ground, which is of course the ideal way to get aid to Gaza, but also by conducting air drops.” Ryder said.

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He said that the floating dock will allow the delivery of “more than two million meals per day.” The population of the Gaza Strip is about 2.3 million people.

General Ryder admitted that airdrops and floating docks would not be as effective as sending aid by land, which Israel has prevented. “We want to see a significant increase in the amount of aid going through the territories,” General Ryder said. “We realize this is the most feasible way to deliver aid.”

But he added: “We will not wait.”

The officials said that the United States will work with regional partners and European allies to build, finance and maintain the corridor, noting that the idea for the project originated in Cyprus.

On Thursday, Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator in Gaza, welcomed Biden’s announcement. But she added in her conversation with reporters after her briefing to the Security Council: “At the same time, I can only repeat: the air and sea are not a substitute for land, and no one says otherwise.”

Biden's humanitarian efforts in Gaza so far “may make some people in the United States feel relieved,” Robert Ford, a former US ambassador to Syria, said in an interview. But he added: “This is like putting a very small band-aid on a very large wound.”

Officials said the humanitarian aid would likely be collected in Larnaca, Cyprus, about 210 nautical miles from Gaza. This would allow Israeli officials to inspect the shipments first.

The official said that while the temporary port will initially be military-run, Washington believes it will eventually be operated commercially.

Officials did not go into details about how the aid delivered by sea will be transported from the coast to Gaza. But the help will be partly distributed by the Spanish chef Jose Andresfounder of the non-profit World Central Kitchen, which has provided more than 32 million meals in Gaza.

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Two diplomats familiar with the plans said the port would be built on the Gaza coast, slightly north of the Wadi Gaza crossing, where Israeli forces have set up a main checkpoint.

But the central problems remain unresolved. Aid officials say delivering supplies by truck is much more efficient and less expensive than transporting them to Gazans by boat. But trucks are still unable to deliver goods amid Israeli bombing and intense ground fighting in southern Gaza.

Providing aid by sea may not prevent the chaos that has accompanied deliveries.

Health officials there said more than 100 people were killed in Gaza last month when hungry civilians rushed into a convoy of aid trucks, sparking a stampede and prompting Israeli soldiers to fire into the crowd.

The US military has airdropped aid into the Middle East and South Asia during previous conflicts, even during wars in which the United States was directly involved.

In 2014, President Barack Obama ordered military planes to drop food and water to tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped in a barren mountain range in northwestern Iraq. The Yazidis, members of an ethnic and religious minority, were fleeing militants who were threatening genocide.

In 2001, President George W. Bush ordered British and American forces striking the Taliban in Afghanistan to drop daily rations from the air on civilians trapped in remote areas of the country.



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