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Biden to announce the setting up of a temporary Mediterranean port to deliver Gaza aid

In this image grab from an AFPTV video, people carry food parcels that were airdropped March 2 from U.S. aircraft above a beach in the Gaza Strip. President Biden is set to announce the setting up of another avenue for aid to Gaza.
AFP via Getty Images
In this image grab from an AFPTV video, people carry food parcels that were airdropped March 2 from U.S. aircraft above a beach in the Gaza Strip. President Biden is set to announce the setting up of another avenue for aid to Gaza.

President Biden is set to announce in his State of the Union address Thursday that the U.S. military will lead an emergency mission to build a new pier on the Mediterranean coast of Gaza to allow large ships to deliver food, water, medicine and temporary shelters to the territory.

The temporary pier will not require U.S. troops to land in Gaza, senior administration officials told reporters on a conference call. They noted that the military had "unique capabilities," but did not explain how this might work. United Nations workers and other aid groups will distribute the aid, the officials said.

It will take a number of weeks to plan and execute the operation, the officials said. When it is ready, the U.S. military will initially lead the operation, but other countries and groups are expected to join in, the officials said. The assistance arriving by ship from the nearby Mediterranean island of Cyprus should be able to fill hundreds of truckloads a day with aid, the officials added.

The announcement comes on the same day that the U.S. air-dropped aid to Gaza for a third time in recent days. Aid groups said airdrops alone are far from sufficient given the scale of the crisis.

The collapse in the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza has produced gut-wrenching outcomes: Children dying of malnourishment, desperately hungry Palestinians rushing aid trucks to feed their families, and last Thursday morning, scores killed trying to access aid from a convoy going into Gaza City.

The routes to take aid in by land rely on a number of factors. They include border crossings that must be open, the availability of drivers in Gaza to receive the trucks and drive the supplies where they need to go, as well as having clearance from the Israeli military for safe passage.

But the acute shortages of aid have prompted the U.S. and Jordan to use airdrops to deliver aid. According to the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a quarter of Gaza's roughly 2.2 million people are "one step away from famine."

Access to the Gaza Strip has been severely limited since the start of the war on Oct. 7. But officials in Washington also said that Israel had agreed to open a new land crossing for aid to move directly into northern Gaza, and that the U.N. would pilot a shipment through that crossing in coming days.

They said Biden would talk about ongoing work to reach a temporary cease-fire in Gaza in his State of the Union remarks Thursday night. A number of family members of hostages are expected to be in the gallery for the speech, and some of them met Tuesday with Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. The officials declined to predict whether an agreement on the cease-fire would be reached before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins next week.

The conflict began Oct. 7 when Hamas led an attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping 240, according to Israeli officials. The Israeli response has killed at least 30,320 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry.

With reporting by D. Parvaz

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.