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In building Gaza's new port, US forces face varied threats

An expert in the region says the U.S. sees Hezbollah as an immediate threat during the mission, but the militant group may never attack.
In building Gaza's new port, US forces face varied threats
Posted at 6:03 PM, Mar 08, 2024

There are no boots on the ground, but the U.S. is in deep water as the war in the Middle East continues.

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that U.S. troops will build a temporary port off Gaza’s shore to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians, suffering from a shortage of food, water, and medicine.

"In order of danger, it's Hezbollah and then Iranian-backed Shia militant groups in Syria," says Ted Singer, the CIA's former chief of Middle East operations and a senior adviser to the Chertoff Group. "Hezbollah has a deep expertise and a deep arsenal on which you could draw to attack U.S. or allied personnel involved in this maritime humanitarian delivery." But he says they haven't made that choice so far. "I am certain that the U.S., its allies involved in this maritime corridor, are viewing Hezbollah as the immediate threat to this potential aid corridor. I don't assess that Hezbollah will engage militarily against us and its allies in this particular corridor at this time."

As for the Yemen-based Houthis that have been firing at ships on the Red Sea, Singer says their missiles can't reach the eastern Mediterranean, and that threats from the Gaza strip are currently diminished. "I am fairly confident that the U.S. has built in its assessment that Hamas and other militant forces will not be engaging U.S. personnel who are involved in delivering aid to Gaza via this maritime corridor. The Israeli military operation, Iron Sword, is now in its fourth month, and they have severely degraded the capability of Hamas and other proxies or other militant groups to project power."

The Pentagon in a Friday briefing was asked about Hamas firing on the operation. "That's certainly a risk," said Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder. "But if Hamas truly does care about the Palestinian people, then again, one would hope that this international mission to deliver aid to people who need it would be able to happen unhindered."

Gaza's coast is roughly 25 miles long. Scripps News' Visual Investigations Team assesses the main port in Gaza City, damaged in Israeli air strikes, could serve as a location for the pier. Another potential location lies just south of Gaza City, connecting to the so-called "Netzarim Corridor," a new road the

Israel Defense Forces have been building. The road can be seen in satellite imagery, stretching from the Israeli border with Gaza to the Mediterranean.

The head of the European Commission says a pilot operation may begin as early as the weekend, through a maritime corridor starting in Cyprus. Officials say this emergency mission will take a number of weeks to plan and execute and it's unclear what will happen to the aid once on land. "I don't foresee an end to the Israeli planning for an operation in Rafah, to round up the last remains of Hamas leadership. So this could go on for weeks, if not months," Singer said.

SEE MORE: Biden announces plan for temporary Gaza port for humanitarian aid

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