How the US military is scrambling to build a floating dock to deliver aid to Gaza

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even before President Joe Biden announced State of the Union address Plans to deliver aid to Gaza by sea meant the Army's 7th Transportation Brigade and other units scrambled to pull equipment together.

Before the speech they received their orders: Build A floating dock from the Gaza Strip to provide food and other needed assistance to residents of Gaza. Israel's tight control of land routes into Gaza has slowed the flow of aid to a trickle.

It's a complex operation involving 1,000 US troops that won't happen overnight. Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that it will take weeks to come together. Some officials say it will take two months. Beyond the logistical challenges, the move depends on Israel's cooperation, which has not been guaranteed.

See what is known about the surgery.

Why build a floating ship?

In the five months since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking 250 hostage, Israel's military has struck the territory, killing more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's health ministry. This is the result Israel-Hamas war There is a catastrophe A humanitarian disaster.

All of Gaza's nearly 2.3 million people struggle to find food, and more than half a million others Now facing starvation. Many are forced to eat animal fodder to survive.

Access to food, medical supplies and other aid is difficult, if not impossible, due to ongoing hostilities and struggles to integrate with the Israeli military. Restricted routes and slow deliveries Because of studies.

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid must travel from the Rafah crossing with Egypt or from the southern edge of Gaza via Kerem Shalom with Israel, through the conflict zone to reach the largely cut-off areas in the north.

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This has frustrated the Biden administration as its efforts to ramp up aid to Gaza have been hampered by sanctions imposed by its close ally Israel.

Last week, America began Air droplets Aid to Gaza. But it can only provide a limited amount of help and it may not reach those who need it.

In his speech on Thursday, Biden ordered the military to build a makeshift dock off the coast of Gaza “that can receive large ships carrying food, water, medicine and temporary shelter.”

“Every day we help increase the amount of humanitarian aid inside Gaza,” Biden said.

Assembled like Legos

The 7th Transportation Brigade, based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, has begun bringing together so-called Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS) equipment and watercraft, according to defense officials.

It's like a giant LEGO structure — a series of 40-foot-long (12-meter-long) steel pieces that can be locked together to form a pier and causeway. The footbridge is 1,800 feet (almost 550 meters) long and two lanes wide.

In the coming days, U.S. troops will begin loading equipment onto a large military sealift command ship. Tools include pieces of steel and small tugboats that help move materials into place.

That loading isn't likely to begin until next week, when the ship will depart for the Atlantic Ocean with members of the 7th Transport Force. Several military units from the United States and abroad will also participate in the mission.

Ryder said the troops would build a sea route through which large ships could transport food and supplies. Small military ships would transport the aid from the floating ship to a temporary runway, which would then be grounded on the shore.

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Biden said Thursday that no U.S. forces would be in Gaza for the mission, which could include other allies, contractors and aid agencies.

What are the challenges?

A key question is what Israel is willing to do to support the aid effort.

The U.S. airdrops were an unusual move by the Biden administration, which has for months appealed to Israel to increase aid to Gaza and provide access and security for trucks carrying supplies.

According to Biden, the Israeli government will maintain security on the ship and protect it from any attacks by Hamas. There may also be a need for crowd control if residents try to attack the ship to get much-needed food.

Although officials say they do not need security on the sea route to Israel, they do need allies and private ships to provide assistance along the sea route.

It is also not clear who will unload the aid at the dock and take it ashore.

What are aid groups in other countries doing?

Cyprus President Nicos Christophoulits offered months ago to use his country's port in Larnaca for a possible sea route for aid to Gaza, a 230-mile (370-kilometer) journey. Cyprus invited officials from Israel, the United States and other European countries to work with Cypriot agents to inspect all shipments so Hamas could not use anything against Israel. The offer received strong interest from Americans, Europeans and others, and expanded planning followed.

A ship carrying humanitarian aid is preparing to leave Cyprus for Gaza, the European Commission said on Friday.

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The ship, which belongs to Spain's Open Arms Assistance Group, will conduct a pilot trip to test the sea route in the coming days. The ship is awaiting approval in Larnaca to deliver food aid from World Central Kitchen, an American charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés.

Youssef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States, told the AP that the exact timing of the pilot ship by sea would depend on conditions, but said Sunday was favorable. The UAE financed the operation and worked directly with the Israelis to prepare the ship without any problems, he said.

World Central Kitchen prepared a boat in Cyprus with 200 tons of rice, flour and proteins that will soon be ready to go to Gaza, and 500 tons of aid is in Cyprus, ready to follow, spokeswoman Chloe Matta Crane said in a statement. .

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Associated Press writer Ellen Knickmeyer provided this report.

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