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U.S. Military Races to Construct Massive Floating Aid Dock for Gaza

HomeWARU.S. Military Races to Construct Massive Floating Aid Dock for Gaza

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a race against a worsening humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip, the U.S. military has embarked on an ambitious mission – assembling a massive floating dock off Gaza’s Mediterranean coast to funnel in desperately needed food, medicine and other aid supplies.

The high-stakes operation, involving up to 1,000 American troops, was set in motion even before President Joe Biden announced the plans during his State of the Union address on March 7th. Ahead of the speech, the Army’s 7th Transportation Brigade and other units had already received their marching orders – build a temporary port to break the crippling blockade that has left Gaza’s 2.3 million residents struggling for basic necessities.

“We were scrambling even before the President’s words to pull together the equipment and personnel,” said Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary. “This is a hugely complex logistical challenge that will take weeks to fully execute.”

The mission underscores the Biden administration’s growing urgency and frustration over getting aid into Gaza through normal land routes from Israel and Egypt. These supply lines have been severely constricted due to the aftermath of last October’s devastating 38-day war between Israel and Hamas militants that left over 30,000 Palestinians dead.

“Israel has sharply restricted land access, essentially slowing the flow of aid to a mere trickle into Gaza,” Ryder told reporters. “The floating dock will enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting in every single day.”

A Massive Maritime Lego Set

At its core, the U.S. operation hinges on an ingenious portable pier system dubbed the Joint Logistics Over The Shore (JLOTS). This maritime miscellany resembles an oversized Lego set made up of 40-foot steel sections that can be locked together.

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Over the next week, members of the 7th Transportation Brigade will begin loading hundreds of these steel pieces, along with supporting tug boats and equipment, onto a massive Military Sealift Command vessel at their base in Virginia.

Once underway across the Atlantic, the soldiers will race to assemble the colossal 1,800-foot, two-lane causeway and anchor it off Gaza’s coast. Larger ships carrying the bulk of humanitarian cargo can then dock and offload supplies onto the floating pier.

Smaller military vessels will ferry that aid to the temporary causeway’s shore-side terminus, where it can finally be dispersed into Gaza – circumventing the land routes that Israel has heavily restricted.

No U.S. Boots on the Ground

In his State of the Union speech, Biden stressed that no American forces will set foot in Gaza itself during the operation, a critical caveat given the highly volatile security situation on the ground.

Instead, the President said Israel has agreed to maintain security around the floating dock and protect it from potential Hamas attacks. There are also likely to be requirements for crowd control should desperate Gazans attempt to overwhelm the pier.

Facilitating the safe passage of aid shipments along the maritime corridor without U.S. military escorts will also necessitate cooperation from Israel as well as other allied nations providing security.

“While we don’t anticipate needing escorts for the actual sea route to the pier, getting those shipments from ports of origin to Gaza will absolutely require the involvement of partners and private vessels,” one defense official said on condition of anonymity.

A Dire Humanitarian Emergency

The urgency driving the audacious sea operation stems from the horrific toll of the latest Israel-Hamas conflict. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, over 30,000 Palestinians perished in the fighting, including untold numbers of civilians.

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Six months later, the United Nations warns that virtually all of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are now struggling to find enough food to eat. More than half a million face the very real prospect of starvation in the coming weeks without a major international aid intervention.

Images from Gaza have shown scenes of desperation, including Palestinians lining up for meager rations and even having to resort to eating animal fodder to survive. At one hospital’s preemie ward, 16 underweight newborn babies died from malnutrition-related causes over just a five-week span in February and March.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is nothing short of catastrophic at this point,” said Dr. Bassam Nasser, vice president of the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund. “Every single day that passes without a massive influx of food, clean water, and medical aid costs more innocent lives, especially among the most vulnerable children and infants.”

A Combined Allied Effort

While the construction of the floating dock falls squarely on American shoulders, the mission to actually deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza involves a much broader coalition of allies and aid groups.

The European Union had already been preparing for a potential sea bridge to Gaza from the Cypriot port of Larnaca, just 230 miles away across the Mediterranean. On Friday, the E.U. confirmed that a ship run by the Spanish aid group Open Arms is poised to make an initial “pilot voyage” from Cyprus to test the maritime corridor once the U.S. dock is operational.

The vessel is carrying 200 tons of rice, flour, and protein supplied by the World Central Kitchen charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés. Another 500 tons of food aid is being prepared to follow the maiden shipment.

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The United Arab Emirates has likewise played a key role in the multi-nation effort, directly coordinating with Israeli authorities to ensure the Open Arms shipment encounters no obstructions.

“The UAE funded this operation and worked directly with the Israelis in getting the initial shipment ready without any issues,” UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba told The Associated Press. “The timing now depends on the conditions, but Sunday is looking favorable for the first run.”

For weeks, American officials had been appealing to Israel to ease the draconian restrictions on aid deliveries through its tightly-controlled land crossings into Gaza. The U.S. had resorted to airdrops as an ad-hoc solution, although that stopgap measure could only provide limited relief.

Israel has its own strategic calculations to factor in the aid equation. While facilitating humanitarian assistance, it also remains determined to exert maximum economic pressure on Hamas after the militant group carried out the October attacks.

Navigating those sensitivities and overcoming the persistent security risks will prove critical in the coming weeks and months. Failure is simply not an option with numerous lives hanging in the balance.

“We’ve pulled off some incredible logistical feats in our nation’s history, but I’m not sure anything matches the ambition of building a giant floating dock to feed a population on the brink,” said retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, now with the Heritage Foundation.

“If the U.S. and its partners can actually pull this off,” Spoehr added, “it would be one of the most monumental humanitarian aid operations the world has ever witnessed.”

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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