Maritime corridor for Gaza aid will take two months to build, Pentagon says

About 1,000 U.S. forces will be needed to build a temporary maritime corridor to get aid to the besieged Gaza Strip, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said on Friday. No U.S. forces will be on the ground in Gaza, but the U.S. military will help build out a pier and causeway to transport aid.

"This is part of a full court press by the United States," Ryder said during a news briefing. "The president has said not enough aid is getting in and so this is a capability that we have, and it's a capability that we are going to execute."

The corridor's construction will take about 60 days, but once in place, it should be capable of providing about two million meals a day, Ryder said.

One of the units involved is the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), which is based out of Fort Eustis-Langley in Virginia.

There are still many logistical questions Ryder says the U.S. is discussing with partners, like who will provide security for the temporary causeway and who will distribute the aid once it gets to the shores of Gaza.

The broad outline of the plan is to load aid onto ships, potentially in Cyprus, and those ships will go to a U.S. military temporary pier in the eastern Mediterranean. At the pier, the aid will be transferred to smaller logistics vessels that will then sail to a U.S. military causeway attached to Gaza's shore.

The causeway can be built at sea and then pushed into the shore, to avoid U.S. forces from having to be on the coast. Ryder said partners will be on the shore to receive the causeway and anchor it. After the aid gets to the causeway, it will be driven to the shore and received by partners who will distribute the aid.

Once the ships arrive off the coast of Gaza, it will take 7 to 10 days to assemble both the floating pier and the causeway, according to a defense official, depending on conditions at sea and whether there are light sources to allow for around-the-clock construction.

A separate defense official said the ship carrying the floating pier and causeway is expected to depart from Virginia this weekend.

Though there will be no U.S. forces on the ground in Gaza, Ryder acknowledged there was "certainly a risk" that Hamas could fire on the causeway. But he said that if Hamas really cares about the Palestinian people, they should let this aid get to the people who need it.

Since security for U.S. troops is a top concern, a defense official said one of the biggest challenges will be anchoring the causeway, called Trident Beach. The standard procedure for anchoring it is to dig it into the shore, the official said. But since U.S. troops will be unable to go ashore, the causeway will likely have to be held in place by tugs. The unit conducting this operation would normally also lay wire mesh at the end of the causeway so trucks coming off do not become stuck in the sand. In Gaza, the Army will have to rely on someone else to do that, the defense official said.

The U.S. Navy will be responsible for protecting both the causeway and the floating pier, the defense official said.

The announcement of the plan for a maritime corridor comes within a week after the U.S. began airdropping aid into Gaza using military aircraft.

In the four rounds of airdrops so far, Ryder said the U.S. has delivered about 124,000 meals – certainly not enough to take care of the roughly half a million people the U.N. estimates are starving in Gaza.

The maritime corridor and airdrops are part of the Biden administration's attempt to flood the zone with aid. Convoys of aid via trucks are the most efficient way to deliver aid but for months, only a small number of trucks have been able to get through the checkpoints in southern Gaza.

David Martin contributed reporting. 

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