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Friday, May 24, 2024

American Pier to Gaza Set to Open within Days, Putting U.S. Troops in Danger

'Wouldn't using U.S. leverage to ensure land routes were opened, rather than spending millions in U.S. taxpayer dollars and putting U.S. service members at risk be a better option?...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) In the coming days, the U.S. military in the eastern Mediterranean is expected to jab one end of a hulking metal dock—the length of five U.S. football fields—into a beach in northern Gaza.

And that may be the end of the easy part for the Biden administration’s two-month-long, $320 million effort to open a sea route to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, with dangers and uncertainties ahead for aid delivery teams as fighting surges and the plight of starving Palestinians grows more dire.

For President Joe Biden, the Pentagon’s new floating pier and causeway are a gamble, an attempted workaround to the challenges of getting aid into Gaza from intensifying war and the restrictions its ally Israel has placed at land crossings since Hamas’ deadly attacks on Israel launched the conflict in October.

However, the Pentagon has warned that the pier could lead to the U.S. military being directly involved in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admitted as much during a congressional budget hearing last month.

At the hearing, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., expressed concerns that the 1,000 US troops operating just off the coast of Gaza are prime targets for Hamas. A staging area for the pier has already come under mortar fire, as noted by antiwar.com.

“They have the right to return fire to protect themselves,” Austin responded.

Gaetz then asked if he thinks an attack is likely, and the defense secretary said it’s “possible.”

Austin insisted that there won’t be American boots in Gaza. But Gaetz said he didn’t see the difference of U.S. boots being on Gaza’s physical land and them being on a pier connected to Gaza.

“You guys seem to be sort of saying that boots on a pier connected to the ground connected to servicemembers shooting into Gaza doesn’t count as boots on the ground,” Gaetz remarked.

“It does not,” Austin responded.

More than a week later, the Pentagon still apparently doesn’t have a firm plan for protecting the pier.

When asked about the matter at the daily Pentagon briefing Tuesday, Air Force Gen. Pat Ryder said that  U.S. Central Command has been working very closely with a number of entities, including USAID, the Israelis, and other partners in the region, on putting together a comprehensive security plan for this temporary pier and the aid distribution routes.

“And so a lot of work has gone into that, and of course as we’ve said all along, force protection is going to continue to be of paramount concern. All that to say we do believe that we have the — the pieces and parts in place so that when we do begin operations, we’re confident that — that we’ll have the security in place that we need,” he said.

Responsible Statecraft editor Kelley Vlahos expressed concern at Gen. Ryder’s non-answer.

“We don’t know if aid can safely get into Gaza.  We don’t know where the trident pier is … Finally, how long will this pier be in operation? When asked, the DOD won’t say,” she wrote Wednesday.

“To ask ‘why’ wouldn’t hurt either,” she added. “Wouldn’t using U.S. leverage to ensure land routes were opened, rather than spending millions in U.S. taxpayer dollars and putting U.S. service members at risk be a better option?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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