Graphics show how US is building Gaza pier to aid population isolated by Israel-Hamas war (2024)

Stephen J. Beard,George PetrasUSA TODAY

American military forces are building two floating platforms off the Gaza coast as a temporary port for delivering as many as 2 million meals a day to civilians facing starvation amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The platforms – known collectively as the Gaza pier – will provide delivery access for ships bringing supplies and humanitarian aid through the island of Cyprus. They should be operational in early May, according to the Pentagon.

Cost of the pier is estimated at $320 million. Construction began April 25 and is now more than 50% complete.

The Mediterranean Sea route is being opened because food deliveries to Gaza by truck are “unpredictable and insufficient,” U.N. officials say. Land routes have been restricted by Israel over security concerns, The Washington Post reported.

All 2.2 million people in Gaza face food insecurity, and at least 1.1 million people are at risk of “catastrophic hunger,” according to a report by U.N. agencies on March 18.

President Joe Biden announced plans for the pier in his State of the Union address on March 7. U.S. service members will build, operate and defend the pier, The Washington Post reported. Biden said no American troops would be deployed into Gaza, however.

What is the Gaza pier?

The Pentagon designates the Gaza pier as a Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore structure. Past versions have been used for disaster relief in Kuwait, Haiti and Central America, the BBC reported.

JLOTS is a group of floating platforms arranged to allow equipment and supplies to reach areas without port facilities, according to the U.S. Transportation Command. The platforms consist of giant floating metal blocks that are maneuvered into position and secured together.

The work will take about 60 days, the Defense Department said.

How will the Gaza pier be used?

The transfer system will work this way:

(1) Food and other supplies for Gaza will first be delivered to Cyprus. All cargo will be inspected – including by X-ray technology – to make sure no weapons are being delivered.

(2) Cleared cargo is loaded aboard ships, which will deliver them to the first JLOTS platform, called a discharge facility, about 200 miles from Cyprus.

The discharge facility is 270 feet long and 72 feet wide and will be anchored about 3 miles off the Gaza shore.

(3) Supply pallets will be offloaded there and transferred to smaller support ships.

(4) The support ships will take supplies to the second platform, known as a Trident Pier. It's named after the staff of the Greek god Poseidon.

Together, the Trident and its driveway-like causeway are about 1,800 feet. The causeway connects the Trident Pier to shore, and trucks will cross it to deliver supplies and return for more.

(5) Israeli forces will again examine the supplies on shore before releasing them for distribution.

How much food will the Gaza pier handle?

The Pentagon has estimated daily food delivery capacity based on the operational status of the pier:

  • Completed: 90 truckloads
  • Fully operational: 150 truckloads

150 truckloads is about 2 million meals a day, according to the Pentagon. By comparison, an average of 200 trucks a day entered Gaza in April, Reuters reported.

Why is the Gaza pier needed?

Though many in Gaza are hungry, there's enough food near its borders to feed them, the U.N. says.

The problem is getting the food into Gaza. Humanitarian workers told The New York Times that difficulties hamper deliveries, including Israeli checkpoints and fighting inside the country.

Hamas, which killed an estimated 1,200 people and kidnapped 250 others when it invaded Israel on Oct. 7, has been in control of Gaza since 2007.

In response to the invasion, Israel has limited food and medicine shipments into Gaza. It inspects every truckload for contraband that could aid Hamas. This causes delays, and some trucks wait weeks to enter.

In turn, Hamas has threatened those who help Israel distribute aid within Gaza.

Seven humanitarian workers from the World Central Kitchen died in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on April 4. Israel later said the strike was a mistake.

Nearly 200 aid workers have died in Gaza since the war began, according to the Aid Worker Security Database.

The U.S and its allies have conducted nearly three dozen airdrops of food into Gaza since March 2. Some aid organizations said the missions were a more expensive and less efficient method than bringing in food by truck.

Who is building the Gaza pier?

The U.S. Central Command is overseeing construction of the Gaza pier, which is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy, including:

About 1,000 U.S. service members are working on the platforms. Those who stay to maintain operations will live aboard the Cardigan Bay, a British navy amphibious ship that will be anchored miles offshore.

Israeli troops are expected to connect the causeway with a point on the Gaza shore. Truck drivers will be from an undisclosed nation and will provide their own security.

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook and Kim Hjelmgaard

Source: USA TODAY Network reporting and research; U.S. Central Command; U.S. Transportation Command; Reuters

Graphics show how US is building Gaza pier to aid population isolated by Israel-Hamas war (2024)
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