May 22, 2024

Facing warnings that the war-ravaged Gaza Strip is on the precipice of widespread famine, the United States on Thursday announced plans for a large-scale, amphibious military operation in the Mediterranean Sea that would ferry food and other aid to desperate civilians in the enclave.

U.S. officials sketched out the plan, which would make the United States more directly involved in delivering aid, hours before President Biden was scheduled to give his State of the Union address on Thursday evening. Details for what they described as a floating pier off Gaza would be included in the speech, the officials said.

The White House called it an “emergency mission” that would allow hundreds of truckloads of additional aid to be delivered to Gaza via the temporary port, which would be attached to some kind of temporary causeway.

Briefing reporters, officials said it could take more than 30 to 60 days to implement, and involve hundreds or thousands of U.S. troops on ships just off shore, in keeping with Mr. Biden’s mandate that no American soldiers be on the ground inside Gaza as the conflict rages. The port would be constructed in cooperation with other countries in the region, the officials said.

American officials said that they had “worked closely” with Israelis as they developed the seaport initiative, but they did not specify whether Israel would provide direct assistance or support for its construction or operation.

Shani Sasson, a spokeswoman for COGAT, the Israeli agency which regulates aid to Palestinians in Gaza, did not respond to a request for comment. One Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations, said that under the latest plan, aid donated by the United Arab Emirates would be sent to Cyprus, where it would eventually be inspected, then transported by ship to the coast of Gaza.

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