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Biden Will Announce a Plan for a Temporary Port for Aid on Gaza's Coast as Cease-Fire Talks Stall
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By Associated Press
Published 1 month ago on
March 7, 2024

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Aid groups struggle to deliver supplies due to ongoing hostilities.

The U.S. has had to find ways to get aid into Gaza, bypassing Israel.

The war has left the wider region on edge, with violence escalating.


WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden will announce a plan Thursday for the U.S. military to help establish a temporary port on the Gaza coast to increase the flow of aid into the territory during the Israel-Hamas war, according to senior administration officials.

Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

The announcement comes amid a widening humanitarian crisis across Gaza that has forced many people to scramble for food to survive and begun leading to deaths from malnutrition.

Hopes for reaching a cease-fire before the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts in the coming days, stalled Thursday when Hamas said its delegation had left Cairo, where talks on a deal were being held. The outline for the cease-fire would have including a wide infusion of aid into Gaza.

Aid groups have said their efforts to deliver desperately needed supplies to Gaza have been badly hampered because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, the ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order. It is even more difficult to get aid to the isolated north.

Details of the Temporary Port

The U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview Biden’s announcement before his State of the Union speech, said the planned operation will not require American troops on the ground to build the pier that is intended to allow more shipments of food, medicine and other essential items.

The officials did not provide details about how the pier would be built. One noted that the U.S. military has “unique capabilities” and can do things from “just offshore.” They said it would likely take weeks before the pier was operational.

The port will allow shipments to flow into Gaza via Cyprus from the U.S. military and allies, the administration officials said.

Pressure on Israel

The move provides one more layer to the extraordinary dynamic that’s emerged as the United States has had to go around Israel, its main Mideast ally, and find ways to get aid into Gaza, including through airdrops that started last week.

Pressure on Israel to establish a sea route for aid has been growing in recent days. European Union Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen planned to visit Cyprus on Friday to inspect installations at the port of Larnaca, from where aid is expected to leave for Gaza if a sea route is established. Israeli officials said Wednesday the country would cooperate with the creation of a sea route from Cyprus, an idea that’s been under discussion for months.

Efforts for Cease-Fire

American Gen. Erik Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that he had briefed officials on such a maritime option. Kurilla said Central Command has provided options for increasing the number of trucks taking aid to areas in northern Gaza.

International mediators had hoped to alleviate some of the immediate crisis with a six-week cease-fire, which would have seen Hamas release some of the Israeli hostages it is holding, Israel release some Palestinian prisoners and aid groups be given access to to get a major influx of assistance into Gaza.

Palestinian militants are believed to be holding around 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others captured during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel that triggered the war.

Egyptian officials said Hamas has agreed to the main terms of such an agreement as a first stage but wants commitments that it will lead to an eventual more permanent cease-fire. They say Israel wants to confine the negotiations to the more limited agreement.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations with media. Both officials said mediators are still pressing the two parties to soften their positions.

Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said Israel “refuses to commit to and give guarantees regarding the cease-fire, the return of the displaced, and withdrawal from the areas of its incursion.” But he said the talks were still ongoing and would resume next week. There was no immediate comment from Israel.

Impact of the War

Mediators had looked to Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Sunday, as an informal deadline for a deal because the month of dawn-to-dusk fasting often sees Israeli-Palestinian violence linked to access to a major Jerusalem holy site. The war already has the wider region on edge, with Iran-backed groups trading fire with Israel and the United States.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly ruled out Hamas’ demands for an end to the war, saying Israel intends to resume the offensive after any cease-fire, expand it to the crowded southern city of Rafah and battle on until “total victory.” He has said military pressure will help bring about the release of the hostages.

“The (Israeli military) will continue to operate against all Hamas battalions all over the strip — and this includes Rafah, the last stronghold of Hamas,” Netanyahu said at a combat officers’ graduation ceremony Friday. “Whoever tells us not to operate in Rafah tell us to lose the war. And that will not happen.”

Hamas-led militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and captured another 250 when they stormed across the border on Oct. 7. Over 100 hostages were released in a cease-fire deal last year.

Israel launched a massive air, land and sea campaign in Gaza that has driven some 80% of the population from their homes and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says at least 30,717 Palestinians have been killed. It does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tallies but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed. The ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government, maintains detailed records and its casualty figures from previous wars have largely matched those of the U.N. and independent experts.

Israel says it has killed over 13,000 Hamas fighters, without providing evidence. It blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because its fighters operate in dense, residential neighborhoods.

Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is particularly dire in the north, where many of the estimated 300,000 people still living there have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive. The U.N. says one in six children younger than 2 in the north suffers from acute malnutrition.

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