US looking at military, commercial options to move aid into Gaza by sea: White House

US looking at military, commercial options to move aid into Gaza by sea: White House
The US is studying options that could see desperately needed aid for Gaza delivered via sea routes, as famine grips the Palestinian territory.
3 min read
Humanitarian aid packages have been airdropped on Gaza, but they're far from enough [Getty]

The US is looking at both military and commercial options to move humanitarian assistance into Gaza from sea routes, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday.

He told reporters that the maritime route can move more volume of aid, but it is more of a heavier lift logistically, adding that trucks are the best way.

But in remarks that appeared to play down that idea, the Pentagon said the United States has no plans to send troops into Gaza to bolster aid distribution efforts.

"At this time there are no plans to put US forces on the ground in Gaza," Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson, told a news conference.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz at their meeting on Tuesday in a "quite frank" way that Israel needs to act urgently to allow more aid into Gaza, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Speaking at a news briefing, Miller said Washington has seen some Israeli ministers in government blocking flour shipments to Gaza and support protesters who blockaded aid going into the densely populated enclave, and he said the US has called out on such actions.

Washington now wants to see another border crossing into Gaza opened by Israel and is engaged with its Israeli counterparts directly to make that happen, Miller said, and those engagements include Blinken's meeting with Gantz.

"He (Blinken) was quite direct and quite frank about the seriousness of the situation on the ground and the fact that it is incumbent on everyone involved to do more to get aid in urgently, as soon as possible," Miller said, describing the humanitarian situation in Gaza as "horrific."

Gantz, speaking to reporters outside the State Department after his meeting with Blinken, said: "Meeting was very good." He did not respond to shouted questions on whether Israel would open another border crossing to allow in more aid.

Famine is now looming over the Gaza Strip as aid supplies, already sharply curtailed since the start of the war, have dwindled to barely a trickle over the past month. Swathes of the territory are completely cut off from food. Gaza's few functioning hospitals, already overwhelmed by the wounded, are now filling with children starving to death.

Blinken on Tuesday also discussed the ongoing ceasefire talks in Cairo with Gantz, Miller said, but he declined to provide details.

"The obstacles are not insurmountable," Miller said. "In our view, it should be possible to reach an agreement. We think the proposal that Israel put on the table in consultation with the United States and with Qatar and Egypt is one that Hamas should agree to."

Hamas negotiators stayed in Cairo for a third day of ceasefire talks on Tuesday to achieve a deal in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins at the start of next week. Three security sources from host and mediator Egypt told Reuters that the warring sides were sticking to demands that had held up an agreement.

A 40-day ceasefire in the war between Hamas and Israel would allow some hostages captured by Palestinian militants in the October attack that precipitated the war to go free, while aid to Gaza would be increased and families would be able to return to abandoned homes.