Biden’s plan to build floating port for Gaza aid could take 60 days

The UN warns that a deadly famine could begin in Gaza by next week

Graig Graziosi
Saturday 09 March 2024 18:30 GMT
Related video: Moment US military airdrop aid onto Gaza beach

The floating port Joe Biden plans to build in an effort to deliver much needed humanitarian aid to Gaza could take up to 60 days to complete, according to the Pentagon.

The Pentagon presented the timeline on Friday in the wake of Mr Biden's State of the Union speech.

The port — intentional or not — will likely serve as an olive branch from Mr Biden's administration to Democratic voters who feel his staunch support of Israel is implicit approval of the civilian displacement and deaths caused by the Israeli Defence Forces.

The UN has issued a warning that Gaza Strip is likely to suffer widespread famine if urgent action is not taken. That famine could begin as early as next week, according to a UN analysis.

It warned that once a famine has been declared, it is typically already too late to help many of the affected.

The port is intended to provide a means for the US to quickly deliver aid to Palestinians, but critics have pointed out that the structure would not even be necessary if Israel would allow the US to bring aid in by land.

"This is not a logistics problem; it is a political problem," Avril Benoît, executive director for Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders], told Reuters. "Rather than look to the US military to build a work-around, the US should insist on immediate humanitarian access using the roads and entry points that already exist."

Despite the looming threat of famine and further civilian deaths, the port is still in its planning stages, according to the Pentagon.

The Open Arms vessel, carrying two-hundred tonnes of food aid to Gaza, is seen docked in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on March 9, 2024.
The Open Arms vessel, carrying two-hundred tonnes of food aid to Gaza, is seen docked in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on March 9, 2024. (AFP/Getty)

General Patrick Ryder said there were also questions over exactly how the port would be secured which still need answers. When asked during a press briefing if he thought the port might become a target for Hamas, he said it was "certainly a risk."

"But if Hamas truly does care about the Palestinian people, then, again, one would hope that this international mission to deliver aid to people who need it would be able to happen unhindered," Mr Ryder said.

While US military members will build the port, none will enter Gaza due to security concerns.

The first part of the port will be construction of an off-shore barge that can accept aid items. That barge would then move the goods to a floating, 1,800 foot causeway that will be anchored to the shore.

Mr Ryder said the system should allow for the delivery of approximately 2 million meals every day to the people of Gaza.

At least one Republican lawmaker criticised Mr Biden's plan. Senator Marco Rubio said building the port in Gaza effectively meant building "a port for Hamas."

Democrats have largely praised the move, thought it's unclear how far the structure will go to win back the support of leftwing party members who were shocked by Mr Biden's refusal to outright condemn the widespread civilian casualties caused by the IDF.

The Michigan Democratic primary results made clear that frustration with Mr Biden was more than just noise online; 13 per cent of voters who cast a ballot in the state's primary race wrote that they were "uncommitted" to any candidate.

Dearborn, Michigan is home to the largest concentration of Muslims in the US.

Mr Biden won the primary, receiving 81 per cent of the vote, but the "uncommitted" voters still accounted for more than 100,000 votes. The president only beat Donald Trump in the state in 2020 by approximately 154,000 votes.

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