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A US military floating causeway. Alamy Stock Photo
naval power

Explainer: How will the US build its makeshift humanitarian aid port on the beaches of Gaza?

Biden announced last night that he has ordered the construction of a temporary port.

JOE BIDEN HAS announced that US forces are to establish a makeshift aid harbour on the bomb-cratered beaches of Gaza.

The US President confirmed in his State of the Union address that he has ordered the US Navy and other entities to begin the preparations for a temporary port.

Military experts who spoke to The Journal said that the air drops the US, Britain and Jordan were working on were not enough to get the required volume of aid into the besieged Gaza. 

Those air drops are being flown from an airbase in Jordan. As reported first by The Journal on Monday, Ireland is now working with Jordanian officials with a hope to join those airdrops. 

The preferred route in for aid, sources said, is by land at two border crossings in the south of the region but Israeli forces are controlling the flow.

As hunger sweeps across Gaza the only way to reach the capacity needed to save the Palestinians in the area is to ship the aid directly into the strip.

Military and diplomatic sources state that the US capacity to perform such an operation is vast.

Currently in the Mediterranean there is a Marine expeditionary force, complete with all the required kit to establish a functioning port.

The complicating factor, one source stated, was the risk that the US forces would come under attack and potentially be drawn into a regional conflict.

240224-n-ed646-1147mediterranean-sea-feb-24-2024-the-wasp-class-amphibious-assault-ship-uss-bataan-lhd-5-center-the-royal-fleet-auxiliary-ship-argus-a135-left-and-the-san-antonio-class-a The three ships which will likely form the back bone of the operation photographed on 24 February in the Mediterranean Sea near Gaza. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Two options

The two options are a so-called beach head or a temporary pier.

The beach head is similar to that seen during D-Day and other amphibious landings where a massive force builds a temporary harbour to move large amounts of kit and personnel in a military operation into a country.

This would require a military intervention, likely by the US Marine Corps, to put boots on the ground inside Gaza – sources have said this has been ruled out. 

The second option is a makeshift pier and harbour facility that will leave the US forces off-shore and make use of aid agencies in Gaza to transfer the humanitarian loads.

The concept, often known as a Mulberry Harbour after the World War Two mission in Normandy, would see a floating or elevated “causeway” connected to land. 

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A naval source has said that the calm sea conditions in that area of the Mediterranean would allow this to be placed there in relative safety.

The force protection, sources said, would be handled by the ships themselves including vessels such as Arleigh Burke class destroyers capable of knocking down rocket attacks.

There will also be fast moving vessels and aircraft acting as security for the operation.

A US source has said that the main feature of the plan is “a temporary pier”. The strategy, the official said, will provide capacity for hundreds of additional loads of assistance.

It is understood at present the US is liaising with Israeli officials on security issues. There are also talks ongoing with the United Nations and humanitarian NGOs to distribute the aid across Gaza. 

The shipments will be first brought to Larnaca in Cyprus and then shipped to the coast of Gaza by the US military and other countries. 

While EU officials suggested this could be done by next week the US has stated that it will take a matter of weeks before they are in a position to “plan and execute” the mission.

The US already have the forces in the region and are moving additional military assets into the region at the moment. 

One of those ships is the USS Mesa Verde, which was recently in Dublin on a courtesy call. The US has an expeditionary force of Marines and Naval Ships in the Mediterranean with other ships available to be dispatched from their base in Naples on the south west coast of Italy. 

030426-n-1050k-051camp-patriot-kuwait-apr-26-2003-following-18-days-of-construction-the-u-s-navys-elevated-causeway-system-modular-elcas-m-stands-completed-at-camp-patriot-elcas-m-i The US military Elevated Causeway System-Modular (ELCAS-M) - it is an expeditionary pier used to bridge the surf zone, providing an interface between cargo vessels and the beach. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo


The officials said that the effort will build on the Amalthea initiative proposed by Cyprus. This is a plan which provides a platform at the port of Larnaca for the transporting of assistance and screening by Israeli officials of Gaza-bound goods. 

A deal has also been struck whereby Israeli “inspectors” will inspect the cargo in Cyprus before it makes the trip to Gaza. 

The plan, from the US perspective, is that this will be a military endeavour at first but then transition to “a commercially operated facility over time”. 

In the background diplomatic efforts are continuing to find a way to establish a ceasefire – US officials said that they believe the only way for the scheme to work effectively is for a full ceasefire to take effect.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has expressed hopes that a humanitarian aid corridor from Cyprus to Gaza will open this weekend, amid fears of famine in the war-torn Palestinian territory.

“We are very close to opening this corridor, hopefully this Sunday,” von der Leyen said after a visit to Larnaca.