Politics & News

Gaza Maritime Corridor to be Operational Within Days: US Officials

Work on the floating pier that aims to increase the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza is complete and the maritime corridor is expected to be operational in the coming days, US officials said.

In March, US President Joe Biden directed establishment of a temporary pier on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast for the delivery of aid into Gaza. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the maritime corridor is part of a US strategy of “flooding the zone” with humanitarian assistance.

In a digital briefing on Wednesday, attended by Leaders MENA Magazine, Dan Dieckhaus, Response Director at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Deputy Commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), spoke about the status of the maritime corridor into Gaza, known as the Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore capability, or JLOTS.

Humanitarian Aid

Gaza is suffering a dire humanitarian situation, exacerbated by the looming attack on Rafah. To mitigate the crisis, Response Director Dieckhaus said: “USAID is coordinating with the Department of defense to establish the maritime corridor.” He stressed that the aim of this corridor is to “augment, not replace,” ongoing efforts to increase the delivery of aid by land.

He added that humanitarian commodities from the US and other countries are arriving in Cyprus, where they will be screened and uploaded onto ships for delivery to Gaza through the maritime corridor. In Gaza, humanitarian organizations will be responsible for selecting and distributing assistance to the final recipients in an independent, neutral, and impartial manner.

Ensuring Safety

Fears are mounting regarding the safety of humanitarian workers. Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 200 humanitarian staff members so far. In April, an Israeli airstrike targeted and killed humanitarian workers from the World Central Kitchen.

On this matter, Dieckhaus said: “We have and will continue to press Israel to create the conditions to ensure the safety of humanitarian actors and activities,” adding that they will also press Israel to “open additional land crossings, remove impediments to the delivery of humanitarian aid, and do far more to prevent the killing of humanitarian workers and innocent civilians.”

Delivery Process

In his opening remarks, Vice Admiral Brad Cooper stressed that the pier has only one purpose, which is to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. He said that the pier is temporary in nature and the maritime route is additive and not a replacement to land routes into Gaza. He emphasized that there will be no US troops on the ground in Gaza.

Vice Admiral Cooper explained how the aid delivery process by sea will work. “First, humanitarian assistance comes into Cyprus via air or sea, where it is screened, palletized, and prepared for delivery. Pallets of aid are then loaded into large commercial or military vessels that travel from Cyprus to a large floating platform that we have assembled and is anchored several kilometers off the coast of Gaza,” he said.

Aid will go from the floating platform onto trucks, then onto smaller US military vessels that can carry between five and 15 trucks of aid each. These vessels will transport trucks onto a floating causeway, several hundred meters long, fixed to the beach in Gaza. After that, the trucks will travel along the causeway onto land where they will drop off commodities, Vice Admiral Cooper said.

Maintaining Security

Regarding the security of US troops involved in the mission, Vice Admiral Cooper said that the US and Israel developed an integrated security plan to provide protection for all personnel working at the JLOTS.

He added: “We do have a series of specific protocols for checkpoint and convoy monitoring, just as a mechanism to increase transparency and coordination around the JLOTS as humanitarian assistance flows in over the beach.”

The two US officials said the UN and World Food Program will receive humanitarian aid, once ashore, for distribution in Gaza. They stressed that the pier’s only purpose is to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It does not have any other objective, including displacement or any other political or military objectives.

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