Week of March 21, 2024

America Builds a Pier for Gaza
Boots on the ground, boots in the water, or boots in the mud

 

The US is building a pier to move more food into Gaza, since the air drop of food into Gaza proved to be too limited and a risk to civilians.

But will this solve the problem?  We don’t know yet.  There are a lot of variables that will have to be considered before the first pallet of food arrives over the beach.

Here are some of the issues that must be considered:

Is sea lifting food over Gaza beaches the most efficient method?  No.  The best solution would be to move the food into modern commercial ports in Egypt and then transport it by truck.  However, Israel wants to inspect any supplies and they have vetoed the land route.  This leaves the pier in Gaza as the best alternative.  Supplies will be sent to Cyprus for inspection and reloading (if necessary) before going to the Gaza pier 210 miles away.

Unfortunately, Gaza doesn’t have any ports, except for very small fishing marinas.  And Israel has been loath to allow Gaza to have a commercial pier.  The Gaza shoreline is sandy and flat and building a commercial port would require a major effort to move the sand and build breakwaters.

What would this pier look like?  At this point, we don’t know.  There are a variety of options depending on security, the number of supplies expected to move across it, what the future of the pier will be and who will maintain it.

The simplest method to move supplies would be to use America’s LSV (Landing Ship Vehicle).  This shallow bottomed ship could run up to the beach, drop its ramp, and move loaded trucks onto the beach.  However, there is only one ship like this in the Atlantic and it only has a top speed of 10 knots.  Since the storms in the North Atlantic are rough, and this ship isn’t designed for smooth sailing, it would have to take a longer route via the South Atlantic.  It would take many weeks to arrive off the coast of Gaza.

The most likely solution would be a pier with three parts – a pier connected to the beach with a floating causeway, a floating pier in deep water, and a connector craft that would move supplies from the floating pier to the causeway.  It would take about two months to build and once it is in place, it could provide food for up to 2 million people.

There is a hitch with the pier method.  As it is connected to the beach, it needs to be anchored to the beach.  That means troops to build the anchoring system.  It also means troops to maintain it as small shifts in winds and currents would shift the pier. Needless to say, a storm would require a lot of repairs and maintenance.

The beach also needs preparation like scraping and sand removal.

This brings up the next question.

Is this talk about no US troops with boots on the ground real or political fantasy?  These piers need earth moving equipment and regular maintenance by trained professionals.  One can’t shove the pier onto the beach and expect it to not have problems.

Trained US soldiers or contractors will have to leave the dry environs of the pier to operate heavy equipment and anchor the pier.  It might very well be argued that soldiers working in the surf are not “boots on the ground,” but it will be near impossible to secure the pier to the beach without operating on the beach.

This is where we can expect semantics games by the Department of Defense and White House.  Will soldiers on the beach, but not working above the high tide be considered “boots on the ground?”

Obviously, there will need to be security teams and they will need to secure the high ground and a zone that will be out of range of rocket propelled grenades.  Will this be guarded by US soldiers, the IDF, Commercial security, or security from Gaza?  Could there be a security team comprising all the nations that intend to support the humanitarian effort ?

Security will be critical.  A rocket propelled grenade (RPG-7) could seriously damage the floating causeway, even though the larger craft would be out of the range of a RPG-7.  A group of fighters could easily overwhelm the beach security and occupy the floating causeway.  And, although the fighters would be separated from the large supply ships, they could very well capture Americans who were on the floating causeway.

This is a serious problem.  The American craft aren’t armed.  At best, they would have machine guns to defend themselves.

It’s also important to remember that the Carrier Strike Force and Amphibious force have headed back to the United States, so there isn’t any major American military strike force to reinforce the ships and pier.  It’s likely that the US would have to rely on the Israelis, which would only increase tensions.

Although it appears that the pier will be constructed in the next couple of months, there are several problems that must be solved.  They are:

-The speed with which the pier equipment is sent to the Mediterranean and installed.

-The ability to ship enough supplies to feed 2 million.

-Finding the most efficient way to build a pier and causeway.

-How to build a pier while the residents of Gaza are starving.

-Securing the food as it leaves the pier.

-Ensuring that the pier is maintained once it is installed.

-Encouraging other nations involved in the effort will help with pier maintenance.

-Assembling a credible security force.

-Keeping the “boots on the ground” force as small as possible

-Developing a plan that allows the US to leave, while the pier operations continue.