New Military Sealift Operation to Aid Starving Gaza Residents Will Require More than 1,000 US Troops

Trident pier rest on the shore of Fort Story
The Trident pier rest on the shore of Fort Story after an attempt to ‘stab the beach’ during the preliminary stages of Joint Logistics-Over-the-Shore exercise Aug.17, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Edwin Rodriguez)

Following President Joe Biden's official announcement that he is ordering the U.S. military to set up a maritime corridor, the Pentagon's top spokesman said that officials are working on a plan to create a temporary pier in the besieged territory of Gaza to deliver aid and supplies.

Spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters at a briefing Friday that the Pentagon has begun rolling out a plan to use an Army Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, or JLOTS, operation in the next 60 days to deliver more than two million meals a day to Gaza residents, many of whom are on the brink of starvation amid Israel’s war on Hamas.

Ryder stressed that the system being planned necessitates "the presence of U.S. military personnel on military vessels offshore but does not require U.S. military personnel to go ashore."

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According to Ryder, the plan will include setting up a floating pier somewhere offshore, where commercial vessels carrying aid -- likely loaded at Cyprus -- will be able to offload it.

That aid will then be moved to Navy logistic support vessels, which will take it to another floating causeway or pier that will be approximately 1,800 feet long with two lanes and anchored to the beach of Gaza, Ryder said.

At this point, the Pentagon is expecting that other regional partners will step in and not only anchor the platform but help conduct security and offload the goods.

"To be clear, it will not be U.S. military personnel that are transporting the aid off of the causeway to Gaza," Ryder said.

This entire effort is expected to involve more than 1,000 U.S. forces between the Army and Navy and a multitude of units and ships -- many of which have yet to be identified.

Ryder did confirm that elements of the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) from Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia have already been tasked to support the mission.

The Pentagon spokesman added that parts of the mission will entail working with Military Sealift Command but said that no Navy warships will be directly involved in the aid delivery effort, noting that "this is not a combat capability."

Part of the reason that the Biden administration feels the need to go with such a complex and expensive plan to deliver aid to Gaza is because moving it over land has proven to be slow and ineffective, with delays and backlogs developing at the handful of border crossings into the region.

"It would obviously make a huge difference if those trucks could get into Rafah, and this is why you see the State Department and others working with officials in the region to try to facilitate that process," Ryder said.

In the meantime, the administration has ordered airdrops of supplies into the area, which have been helpful but don't come close to fulfilling Gaza's overwhelming need.

Ryder said that another Air Force C-130 Hercules dropped 11,500 meals Friday, bringing the total number of meals delivered since the drops began last Saturday to 124,000.

However, independent estimates say that the region needs around 3.3 million meals daily -- roughly 260 C-130 drops a day.

The airdrops themselves have also started to become a problem. Several outlets reported that five Palestinians were killed when a recent airdrop allegedly went wrong, but Pentagon officials said that the deaths were not the result of U.S. efforts.

When asked whether the Pentagon is concerned about Hamas firing on the sealift operations once they are going, Ryder said, "That's certainly a risk."

Related: Military to Conduct Airdrops of Humanitarian Aid into Gaza as Concern for Palestinian Civilians Mounts

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