Israel - Gaza War

Israel – Gaza war : US to set up temporary port on Gaza coast for aid delivery

By George Wright & Tom Bateman

 

President Joe Biden is to announce that the US military will construct a port in Gaza to get more humanitarian aid into the territory by sea, senior US officials say.

The temporary port will increase the amount of humanitarian assistance to Palestinians by “hundreds of additional truckloads” per day, officials say.

However it will not include US troops on the ground in Gaza, they said.

The UN warns that a quarter of the population is on the brink of famine.

The port will take “a number of weeks” to set up, the officials said, and will be able to receive large ships carrying food, water medicine, and temporary shelters. Initial shipments will arrive via Cyprus, where Israeli security inspections will take place.

Mr Biden is due to make the announcement during his State of the Union address later.

Israel’s military launched an air and ground campaign in Gaza after Hamas’s attacks on Israel on 7 October, in which around 1,200 people were killed and 253 others were taken hostage.

More than 30,800 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

In his speech to Congress, President Biden will say the US military is to establish a port in Gaza, involving a temporary pier to transport supplies from ships at sea to the shore.

It is not clear who will build the causeway or secure the aid on land, meaning crucial questions about whether the operation can succeed remain unanswered.

Gaza has no deep water port and so the US has for weeks been looking at ways to get shiploads of aid in urgently, while the administration has publicly ramped up its pressure and increasingly shown in public its impatience with Israel over the desperate situation on the ground.

US officials told the BBC’s US partner CBS that there are plans for the pier to be installed by an army unit called the 7th Transportation Brigade, based at Fort Story, Virginia.

The brigade is designed for rapid deployment, but the military ships have not yet left the US, the officials said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned this week that children were dying of starvation in northern Gaza, where an estimated 300,000 Palestinians are living with little food or clean water.

Aid lorries have been entering the south of Gaza through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing and the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom. But the north, which was the focus of the first phase of the Israeli ground offensive, has been largely cut off from assistance in recent months.

Last week, amid the growing desperation, more than 100 people were killed trying to reach an aid convoy. Palestinians said most were shot by Israeli troops. The Israeli military, which was overseeing the private aid deliveries, said most were killed in a stampede.

On 20 February, the World Food Programme (WFP) said it was suspending food deliveries to northern Gaza because its first aid convoys in three weeks had endured “complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order”, including violent looting.

The US and other nations have resorted to dropping aid in by air – but humanitarian organisations say that method is a last resort and can’t meet the soaring need.

An independent UN expert on Thursday accused Israel of mounting “a starvation campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza”.

“The images of starvation in Gaza are unbearable and you are doing nothing,” Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council.

Yeela Cytrin, a legal adviser at the Israeli mission to the UN, said “Israel utterly rejects allegations that it is using starvation as a tool of war”, before walking out in protest.

Meanwhile a Hamas delegation has left talks in Cairo without a deal for a ceasefire in Gaza, but the armed group says indirect negotiations with Israel are not over.

It had been hoped that a 40-day truce could be in place for the start of the Islamic month of Ramadan next week.

But Egyptian and Qatari mediators have struggled to seal a deal that would see Hamas free Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

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