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White House Plans to Build Temporary Port to Land Food Aid in Gaza

Army
U.S. Army and Navy personnel install a temporary Trident Pier for a JLOTS exercise (U.S. Army file image)

Published Mar 7, 2024 8:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

President Joe Biden plans to announce a new mission to deliver aid to Gaza using sealift and a temporary pier, senior advisors told multiple media outlets Thursday. The description of the plan matches Joint Logistics Over The Shore (JLOTS), a capability of U.S. Transportation Command. 

JLOTS involves using floating bridge sections to build a working cargo pier (or Trident Pier) from an unimproved beachhead. It draws on the capabilities of civilian-crewed Military Sealift Command, the Navy's beach master units, the Seabees and the assault craft community. The U.S. Army typically handles the shoreside arrangements. It is a complex, rehearsed ballet involving multiple units in coordination, and the U.S. military practices it regularly in drills at home and abroad.  

A senior defense official told ABC that the pier will allow hundreds of truckloads of aid to be delivered to Gaza every day, helping alleviate starvation. The plan will take several weeks to prepare and carry out, the official said. Uniquely, no American troops will need to be on the ground, the official said, though JLOTS typically involves some amount of shore preparation by Seabee units. 

Israel has limited the amount of aid that can pass through land borders into Gaza while its military operation against Hamas continues. Though conventional road transport would be the preferred option, the Biden administration - which is under heavy political pressure from the pro-Palestinian left - sees a need to circumvent Israeli border policy and begin aid deliveries immediately.

All Gazans currently face "crisis" levels of malnutrition or worse, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. Related fatality counts remain low - about 20 verified victims of hunger out of an estimated conflict death toll of about 30,000 Gazans - but anecdotal reports suggest that death by starvation is rising. The early effects appear to be concentrated among infants and unborn children; young children are more vulnerable to hunger, especially when it is combined with disease. 

The problem is most concentrated in the northern half of Gaza, which sustained the largest impact from the operation and is furthest from the international border. An estimated 300,000 residents remain in the area. 

"[Biden] has directed that we look at all options, that we not wait for the Israelis, and that we are pursuing every channel possible to get assistance into Gaza," the official said. 

If implemented, the White House's plan might create the first international cargo pier in Gaza since 2007, when Israel blockaded its maritime boundaries to prevent arms transfers to Hamas. 

The EU is showing signs of interest in setting up its own aid cargo corridor, according to Cypriot spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is scheduled to visit Cyprus later this week to discuss the possibility, EU officials told AFP.