U.S. Military Ship En Route to Gaza for Port Construction

Credits: WAM

The army has announced that a United States military vessel is en route to the Middle East, carrying equipment to construct a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza.

The support ship, General Frank S. Besson, departed from a military base in Virginia on Saturday. It responded to President Joe Biden’s commitment to build a floating harbor to aid Gaza by sea.

The United Nations has warned of an impending famine in the Gaza Strip, where children are reportedly starving to death. On Sunday, the US and Jordan conducted an airdrop, delivering over 11,500 meals consisting of rice, flour, pasta, and canned food, to the region.

U.S. Military Ship (Credits: Al Jazeera)

Delivering aid by land and air has proven challenging and risky. The World Food Programme had to suspend land deliveries due to attacks on convoys, and reports emerged of five people dying from a falling aid package when its parachute failed.

The US ship set sail “less than 36 hours” after Biden’s announcement, to establish a temporary pier to facilitate the delivery of vital humanitarian supplies.

The Pentagon estimates it could take up to 60 days to complete the pier with the help of 1,000 troops, none of whom will disembark. Charities have expressed concern that the situation in Gaza is urgent and cannot wait that long for aid to arrive.

Additionally, an aid ship carrying around 200 tonnes of food was expected to leave a port in Larnaca, Cyprus, on Sunday. However, as of the evening, the ship remained in port, undergoing repositioning but not expected to depart “for some time,” according to Cypriot authorities.

The vessel, Open Arms, was operated by the Spanish charity of the same name. The US charity World Central Kitchen provided its cargo.

It remains unclear how aid delivered by sea will reach the shore before the US pier is completed, as Gaza lacks a functioning port and its surrounding waters are too shallow for large vessels.

However, Oscar Camps, the founder of Open Arms, stated that a pier is being constructed at the undisclosed destination to receive the aid.

Israel has expressed support for the ocean initiative, noting that aid would be delivered after security checks are conducted in Cyprus “in accordance with Israeli standards.”

U.S. Military Ship (Credits: Khaleej Times)

The military campaign launched by Israel in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’s attacks on Israel in October 7 has resulted in approximately 1,200 deaths and 253 hostages. Since then, over 30,900 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

The conflict has exacerbated a growing humanitarian crisis, with the UN warning that at least 576,000 people across Gaza, one-quarter of the population, are facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Western nations have urged Israel to expand land deliveries by facilitating more routes and opening additional crossings.

While lorries have been entering the south of Gaza through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing and the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the north, which was the focus of the initial phase of the Israeli ground offensive, has been largely isolated from assistance in recent months. About 300,000 Palestinians in the north are reportedly living with minimal food or clean water.

Israel has been accused of obstructing aid efforts, with an independent UN expert recently accusing it of waging “a starvation campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

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