US to construct temporary port for Gaza aid, Biden announces

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced during his State of the Union speech on Thursday that the U.S. military is set to establish a temporary port on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid by sea. The operation, initially planned from Cyprus, will proceed without deploying U.S. military personnel in Gaza.

The announcement comes as Biden attempts to mitigate discontent within his Democratic Party regarding his support for Israel amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which began on Oct. 7. The conflict has resulted in significant civilian casualties within the Palestinian territory.

Ahead of the speech, senior administration officials informed reporters that negotiations for a six-week ceasefire and the release of hostages are hindered by Hamas’ reluctance to release sick and elderly captives. Despite ongoing talks in Egypt, an official emphasized the need for a temporary ceasefire to “bring immediate relief to the people of Gaza.”

Hamas attributes the deadlock to Israel’s refusal to cease its offensive and withdraw forces. Biden’s directive for constructing the temporary port aligns with U.N. warnings about a potential famine affecting Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, exacerbated by nearly five months of conflict. The intense military engagements, initiated by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, have led to significant destruction and displacement within Gaza.

Israel attributes the death of 1,200 individuals and the abduction of 253 hostages to Hamas’ incursion. Contrarily, Biden noted in his speech that over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, clarifying that “most of whom are not Hamas,” and highlighted the extensive loss of “innocent women and children.”