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Military aid to Gaza: The United States is working to build a naval pier at a cost of at least $320 million

Military aid to Gaza: The United States is working to build a naval pier at a cost of at least $320 million

JERUSALEM (AP) — A U.S. Navy ship and several Army ships took part in a U.S.-led effort to bring more aid to Jerusalem. The besieged Gaza Strip off its coast Jeep and building a floating platform for the operation, which the Pentagon said would cost at least $320 million.

Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters that the cost is a rough estimate of the project and includes transporting equipment and parts of the dock from the United States to the Gaza coast, in addition to construction operations and aid deliveries.

Satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press on Tuesday show the USNS Roy P. Benavidez about 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from the port on shore, where the Israeli military is building the project's operating base. USAV General Frank S. Besson Jr., an Army logistics ship, and several other Army boats are with Benavidez and working to build what the Army calls the Joint Logistics System Across the Shore, or JLOTS.

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the USNS Roy P. Benavidez in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip on Saturday, April 27, 2024. A US Navy ship is participating in US-led efforts to bring more aid to the besieged Strip. Gaza is offshore from the Strip, and is slowly building a floating platform for the operation, satellite images analyzed Monday, April 29, 2024, by The Associated Press. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Satellite images taken by Planet Labs PBC on Sunday and Monday showed pieces of the floating pier in the Mediterranean Sea, next to Benavidez. The ship's measurements match known features of the Benavidez, a Bob Hope-class composite cargo ship operated by the Military Sealift Command.

A US military official confirmed late last week that Benavidez had begun construction and that it was far enough offshore to ensure that forces building the platform would be safe. The next step will be the construction of the bridge, which will then be connected to the beach, Singh said on Monday.

Early Tuesday, the US military's Central Command posted photos of the construction of the floating dock online, after the Associated Press published satellite images.

“The dock will support USAID and humanitarian partners to receive and deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza,” the statement on social platform X read.

US and Israeli officials said they hope to have the floating dock and bridge connected to the beach up and running operations by early May. The Pentagon said Monday that the operation would cost at least $320 million. Reuters was first to report the cost.

Under the US military's plan, the aid would be loaded onto commercial ships in Cyprus for sailing to the floating platform now under construction off Gaza. The pallets will be loaded onto trucks, which will be loaded onto smaller vessels that will travel to a two-lane floating metal bridge. The 550-meter (1,800-foot) bridge will be connected to the beach by the Israel Defense Forces.

The US military official said that a US Army engineering unit cooperated with an Israeli military engineering unit in recent weeks to practice installing the bridge, and to train on an Israeli beach on the coast.

The new port is located southwest of Gaza City and slightly north of the road linking Gaza, which was built by the Israeli army during the war. The current war against Hamas. The area was the most densely populated in the region before the Israeli ground offensive began, pushing more than a million people south towards the city of Rafah on the border with Egypt.

Now there are Israeli military positions on both sides of the port, which was initially built — as part of an effort led by Global Central Kitchen — from the rubble of buildings destroyed by Israel. This effort was then halted An Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers at the World Central Kitchen on April 1 while traveling in clearly marked vehicles on an Israeli-sanctioned delivery mission. The organization says it is resuming its work in Gaza.

Aid was slow to arrive in Gaza, as there were reserve trucks waiting for Israeli inspections. The United States and other countries have also used airdrops to send food to Gaza. The total deliveries on the sea route will initially be about 90 trucks per day and could quickly rise to about 150 trucks per day, the US military official said.

Relief organizations said several hundred of these trucks were needed to enter Gaza each day.

Following the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200 people and took 250 hostage, Israel cut off or severely restricted the entry of food, water, medicine, electricity and other aid into the Gaza Strip. under Pressure from the United States and othersIsrael says the situation is improving, although UN agencies have said more aid is needed to enter.

Gaza, a little more than twice the size of Washington and home to 2.3 million people, has found itself on the brink of famine. Local health authorities say that more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the fighting began.

Israeli military spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Sunday that the amount of aid going to Gaza would continue to increase.

“This temporary dock will provide a ship-to-shore distribution system that will increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza,” he said in a statement.

However, a high-ranking Hamas political official Khalil Al-Hayya told the Associated Press last week that the group would consider Israeli forces — or forces from any other country — stationed on the pier to guard it as an “occupying and aggressive force,” and that the armed group would resist them.

On Wednesday, a mortar attack targeted the port site, without causing any casualties.

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Associated Press writers Tara Cobb and Lolita C. contributed to this report. Baldur in Washington.

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