pier protection

Senate Republicans have ‘strong reservations’ about Biden’s Gaza pier plan

The GOP members of the Armed Services Committee said they have serious concerns about protection for U.S. forces and the efficacy of the planned humanitarian aid corridor

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Army Gen. Michael Kurilla, commander, U.S. Central Command, testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, March 16, 2023.

The dozen Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed “strong reservations” about the Biden administration’s plan to build a humanitarian pier in Gaza, warning that it may endanger U.S. troops and may not address the key hurdles for humanitarian aid.

The lawmakers, in a letter to President Joe Biden sent on March 21 and released Thursday, said that the plan “appears to ignore force protection issues entirely, against an enemy that tries to kill Americans every day.”

According to details shared publicly by CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, who is supervising the effort, U.S. troops would ferry supplies to the pier on the Gaza shoreline in U.S. ships.

“We are gravely concerned that the Department of Defense has given too little consideration to the likelihood that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and other U.S.-designated terrorist organizations operating in Gaza would attempt to attack the U.S. personnel that will be deployed to this mission,” the lawmakers wrote. “[Hamas] is unlikely to be deterred by the humanitarian nature of the U.S. mission.”

They also said that the pier would not address the key problems relating to security and distribution of aid inside Gaza that Kurilla outlined in congressional testimony last week.

“Your decision to build a pier for Gaza merely creates another port of entry that will be backlogged,” they wrote. “There is no apparent plan to secure distribution, to keep aid in civilians’ hands and out of Hamas’. The latter would provide Hamas sustenance to continue fighting rather than force it to return the hostages and end the war.”

The lawmakers further argued that the plan “ignores the most basic cause” of the humanitarian crisis — the Hamas attack. They said that the humanitarian challenges would end if Hamas released the hostages and surrendered.

The senators requested answers to a list of 15 questions about the plan, how it was devised and what it will entail, including how the U.S. would respond to attacks of troops involved and how and by whom aid will be secured and distributed inside Gaza.

The letter was signed by Senate Armed Services Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rick Scott (R-FL), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Ted Budd (R-NC) and Eric Schmitt (R-MO).

Wicker added in a Washington Examiner op-ed published Thursday morning that “[o]ne would be hard-pressed to find a more dangerous and illogical election-year gimmick from our commander in chief,” describing it as primarily a “lifeline to a small group of voters he needs to appease.”

He alleged that “no one has figured out” how the aid will be distributed, that it creates a “static target” for Hamas and other terrorist groups, that the plan “is being written as it is being enacted” and that the U.S. lacks the forces to properly protect its personnel.

Wicker also called on Biden to cancel the mission.

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