Earlier in March, US President Joe Biden announced plans for the US military to build a temporary pier on the coast of Gaza in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in order to deliver humanitarian assistance to the residents of the Gaza Strip.

Officials said that what amounts to a floating port will be built from ships and then moved to the shore. A US military ship, the General Frank S Besson, plus three others are on their way to the Mediterranean, having set sail less than 36 hours after the President made his announcement.

It is estimated that it will take about two months and 1,000 US military personnel to establish the port, and then it is hoped that 2 million meals per day might be delivered. No US troops will enter Gaza we are told, with security being provided by Israel and the aid being forwarded to residents by the UN.

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All of this is an attempt to alleviate the difficulties involved in bringing supplies in via the Rafah crossing with Egypt. There have been long delays to lorries entering Gaza and widespread looting of the vehicles when they get in. Additional supplies have been dropped by air by the US and Jordan, but the amounts are insufficient to date.

Aficionados of Second World War history will be reminded of the Mulberry Harbours, which were positioned off the coast of Normandy in the aftermath of D-Day in 1944 to bring in the much-needed supplies for the Allied armies until they were able to secure a proper port.

Those pre-formed concrete caissons which were made in Britain were towed across the English Channel and sunk just off the coast to provide offloading piers for the vast amounts of materiel required to sustain the assault. They were positioned in what was clearly a hostile environment, but it was the weather which came close to wrecking the effort then.

The US port off Gaza may not be being established in quite the same hostile environment, but it is hardly without risk. Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and various Iran-backed jihadist groups are always dying – often literally – to have a pop at the USA, and the floating pier will bring the personnel of the “Great Satan” within reach. I don’t think they’ll be able to resist the opportunity it presents.

The USA and its allies, of course, won’t leave their facility unguarded, and all sorts of anti-drone and missile systems will be deployed to protect it. But it only takes one hostile missile to penetrate the defences and hit the pier or a US ship and we’re into a whole different ballgame. The defenders have to be successful in their efforts all the time, the opposition only has to be successful once.

The USA doesn’t have an altogether happy history when it comes to ships positioned just offshore in the eastern Mediterranean. Infamously, in 1967, the USS Liberty was attacked by four Israeli fast jets and three torpedo boats by mistake while it was loitering off the Egyptian coast during the Six-Day War.

The Israeli attack killed 34 crew members, wounded another 171, and severely damaged the ship. After investigation by both the US and Israel the latter accepted responsibility for their error and compensated crew members and families as appropriate. Conspiracy theorists still dismiss the event as an accident and are convinced it was a deliberate act.

Now, technology has moved on since then and it’s highly unlikely that a similar thing could happen again. But if the pier comes under attack and there’s lots of ordnance flying around you can never be completely sure what’s going to happen. As I said, it’s not a risk-free venture.

The other question is, of course, what happens to the aid when it gets ashore? The Israelis will want to keep it out of Hamas’ hands, and they in turn will want to exert their control over it. The Israelis recently announced plan to flood Gaza with food is a good one, for its availability in abundance defeats Hamas’ attempts to weaponise it.

The following weeks and months will tell whether the US plan comes good, but I don’t underestimate the level of resistance they may face from the usual suspects. If things go well, however, it can only be good news for the people of Gaza.

Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk

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Stuart Crawford was a regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for twenty years, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. Crawford attended both the British and US staff colleges and undertook a Defence Fellowship at Glasgow University. He now works as a political, defence and security consultant and is a regular commentator on military and defence topics in print, broadcast and online media.
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Jacko (@guest_804397)
1 month ago

It really would be to tempting of a target for any Hamas fighter! Who could resist striking the great satan?

Chris (@guest_804444)
1 month ago
Reply to  Jacko

If it is attacked, it will be a great excuse for the west to go hands off on the entire conflict. Politicians will say “we aren’t welcome by either side, so we’ll monitor from a distance”.

Mark B
Mark B (@guest_804712)
1 month ago
Reply to  Jacko

Even Hamas’s larder must be (at least becoming) annoyingly empty by now.

Farouk (@guest_804406)
1 month ago

The salient question that hasn’t been asked in the above article is why is the US building a pier inside Gaza which we are been told will take 2 months to complete, when 25 miles away to the west in Egypt is a ready made concrete dockyard not only able to take huge container ships, but has a secure naval section where the Mistral ships can dock if need be. Why hasn’t the most concerned Egyptian Government allowed Aid ships to dock there and then use trucks to move aid through the secure Egyptian border into Gaza. Loved this: “”The… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Farouk
pete (@guest_804455)
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

Egypt does one not want to take the refugees in case they are not allowed back by Israel . Two Hamas might launch rockets against Israel from Egypt dragging it into conflict. Three Hamas might encourage Islamic militant trouble in Egypt.The three top leaders of Hamas are worth around 11 billion according to New York Post , doubtful if they want the money to stop rolling in by any peace deal.

AlexS (@guest_804545)
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

Because Egypt knows very well what happens if it has to deal with Hamas & friends.

The wall between Egypt and Gaza was duplicated with a another concrete wall and reinforced 1 month ago.

Mark B
Mark B (@guest_804803)
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

Perhaps food will entice civilians to the coast and away from their current position. Then Israel can save face attack the last area without so many child casulaties.

Billythefish (@guest_804501)
1 month ago

My view is that the mission is an impossible task stacked with risk that will end in a complete shambles.

Building a jetty without stepping ashore? Yeah okay.

AlexS (@guest_804544)
1 month ago

Since Hamas murdered the leader of one Gaza clan that with Israel support was distributing food to Gaza i would not be surprised by an attack against the pier, but i expect that instead of a direct attack, rockets will be fired to the area

Last edited 1 month ago by AlexS
Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_804649)
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

It seems here then that Hamas does not want the West to have the option to be seen helping Gazans while at the same time being allied directly/indirectly with Israel.

Jon (@guest_804881)
1 month ago

Not sure why the writer wants to go back 60 years to find a shock n horror moment, maybe to add weight to a bit or poor writing. but think about Hamas take out the main food source then those starving will turn on the ones that and withholding aid.

Airborne (@guest_804908)
1 month ago

Let’s not pretend here, Hamas are happy for the people of Gaza to suffer! Target Isreal, target the US, expect retaliation. However Hamas need the long suffering people of Gaza to remain in Gaza, to act as collateral damage, to ensure the white, mostly middle class, plus the related heritage thousands, in the UK, to continue to jump about in total outrage!!!!!! Did we see marches against ISIS when they were murdering thousands upon thousands of fellow Muslims in Iraq, Syria and west Africa? Did we see marches flying the Yemeni flag when Saudi and fellow Arab, Muslim countries, were… Read more »