Palestinians haul flour from an aid truck that arrived at al-Rashid Street in the west of Gaza City, Gaza on March 6, 2024.

Palestinians haul flour from an aid truck that arrived at al-Rashid Street in the west of Gaza City, Gaza on March 6, 2024. Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images

US to establish temporary port in Gaza to provide humanitarian aid

“Not planning…U.S. boots on the ground,” White House official says.

The U.S. will launch an emergency military mission to establish a port to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza, a senior White House official told reporters on Thursday.

The effort is to be formally announced by President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address on Thursday night, the official said. 

The port will be set up to receive “large ships carrying food, water, medicine, and temporary shelters. And this is an initiative that will get underway here when the President makes the announcement and issues the orders,” the official said.

Another officials added, “We continue to work to increase the amount of aid flowing through existing border crossings at Rafah and Kerem Shalom. And over recent days, at our request, the government of Israel has prepared a new land crossing directly into northern Gaza. This third crossing will allow for aid to flow directly to the population in northern Gaza that is in dire need of assistance.”

The United Nations and other groups have been sounding the alarm for weeks and months. On February 8, the UN Food Agency tweeted “At least 300,000 people living in the area depend on our assistance for their survival.” 

Ramesh Rajasingham, director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in a Tuesday briefing that “576,000 people in Gaza – one-quarter of the population – one step away from famine; with 1 in 6 children under 2 years of age in northern Gaza suffering from acute malnutrition and wasting; and practically the entire population of Gaza left to rely on woefully inadequate humanitarian food assistance to survive. Unfortunately, as grim as the picture we see today, there is every possibility for further deterioration.”

Tucks carrying aid into parts of Gaza face multiple obstacles. Some Israelis have taken to blocking food trucks heading into Gaza, justifying their actions with claims that Hamas steals supplies and doesn’t distribute it fairly to Palestinians. The Israeli government has claimed that Hamas forces routinely steal food aid that they deliver via trucks and air drops. On March 1, Israeli forces killed 100 people and wounded 700 when their aid convoy was mobbed by a desperate crowd.

The senior White House official offered a few details about the planned pier.

“This port, the main feature of which is a temporary pier, will provide the capacity for hundreds of additional truckloads of assistance each day. We will coordinate with the Israelis on the security requirements on land, and work with the U.N. and humanitarian NGOs on the distribution of assistance within Gaza. Initial shipments will come via Cyprus, enabled by the U.S. military and a coalition of partners and allies,” theofficial said. 

“We are not planning for this to be an operation that would require U.S. boots on the ground.  But issues in terms of the dates, the timelines, et cetera, those are all things that we're working through because they require contributions from our partners, from the humanitarian community and others, to make sure that this entire pipeline works effectively,” the official said.

The announcement comes days after Biden met with Benny Gantz, a centrist Israeli politician currently considered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief political rival, a possible signal that the relationship between Biden and Netanyahu is worsening. 

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters, “The United States government has provided more than $180 million in humanitarian assistance to Gaza since Oct. 7…the DoD is supporting that broader U.S. government interagency effort to deliver aid. So again, I don't have anything to announce right now. And as I mentioned, we are actively reviewing options.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti, asked about the announcement at the McAleese defense conference, declined to address it directly but said that "the Navy is ready to support any mission we need to do.

Bradley Peniston contributed to this post.