Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Israel weighing the use of private security contractors to protect aid shipments to Gaza, officials say

By 37ci3 Mar15,2024



Israel is investigating the use of international private security contractors to protect humanitarian aid deliveries Gazaaccording to one former and two US officials.

Israeli officials have discussed the idea in recent weeks with senior officials in the Biden administration, which is sending components of a floating dock to Gaza so it can deliver aid by sea. According to the officials, some US officials are wary of the presence of American troops or security contractors in Gaza, and are particularly wary of Americans providing armed security.

The Israeli government has already approached several security companies, the officials said, but declined to say which companies. Officials say the Israelis have also encouraged other countries to cover the contractors’ large costs.

The Israeli government declined to comment.

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trucking continues to be the most efficient way to deliver large amounts of aid to Gaza, according to a senior administration official. The Biden administration has focused on opening land routes, but the IDF has not allowed as many trucks as the US would like. Aid distribution in northern Gaza has also been hampered by the breakdown of law and order.

U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Michael “Eric” Kurilla told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month during his latest visit to the region. Saw 2500 ambulances They stood outside the gates waiting to bring supplies to Gaza.

Just before President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last week, the White House announced that the United States would provide a maritime corridor for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. But the announcement caught many military officials by surprise, and a week after the announcement, the Pentagon still does not have a complete plan for how the US operation will be conducted, including who will provide security, according to three US military officials. The coast.

The general plan is that over about 60 days, more than 1,000 US troops and civilians will build a floating dock and portable bridge system that will anchor the coast in Gaza. Then, according to the Pentagon, they will carry food and aid in small boats without ever setting foot ashore. Once operational, this system could provide up to 2 million meals to Palestinian citizens every day.

The Biden administration has told the Israeli government that it expects the Israelis to provide security for a temporary US military pier, but defense officials say the plan for coastal security is still ongoing. The Pentagon insists the U.S. military will not have security boots in Gaza and is talking about the roles it could play with other U.S. allies in the region.

Officials said the Israelis will also check the aid in Cyprus before it goes to the floating port. It will be inspected a second time before being loaded onto Army boats to go to the jetty, U.S. military officials said.

U.S. officials said the Biden administration expects the Israelis to provide some extensive perimeter security and de-conflict Israel’s military operations near the coast, but the U.S. expects to call on other allies to help. According to two U.S. defense officials, at least one scenario involves soldiers moving aid across the bridge unarmed, with security forces on boats instead providing armed cover.

The use of private contractors to provide security for US government operations has repeatedly caused controversy. Private security contractors working for the US government have been accused of firing on civilians or using excessive force in a number of incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007, Blackwater contractors guarding a State Department convoy opened fire on a crowd in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. Seventeen civilians were killed. Four contractors were tried in US courts on charges related to the deaths, but were later pardoned by President Donald Trump.

Who will distribute the food?

Another unanswered question is who will distribute the aid to Palestinian citizens once it lands. The UN has warned that a quarter of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are on the brink of starvation.

The famine crisis is concentrated in the northern Gaza Strip, and large crowds gather when aid arrives. Aid trucks have been repeatedly looted by desperate people or criminal gangs, according to both the UN and Israel.

On the morning of February 29, a hungry crowd drove a 30-truck aid convoy to Gaza, organized by a Palestinian businessman. The convoy was guarded by Israeli tanks. Accounts differ what happened next. Witnesses said that civilians were killed as a result of Israeli fire and tank artillery shells. The military said most of the dead and wounded were trampled or run over in the chaos. Health authorities of Gaza said that more than 100 people were killed and hundreds of people were injured.

US officials said they would not be directly involved in the distribution. A senior administration official said it was hard to imagine large-scale distribution without the involvement of the UN agencies known as the World Food Program and the UN Relief and Works Agency. UNWRAOfficial, American and international non-governmental organizations may also have a role, adding that the most effective distribution in Gaza is done by the UN.

The U.S. is also considering using Palestinian security forces in Gaza to help distribute aid, according to two U.S. officials. They would not elaborate on who those providers are, other than to say that there are groups and factions in Gaza that are separate from Hamas that can help. Officials do not expect Hamas to be directly involved in the distribution and hope that using multiple partners will send a message to Hamas not to interfere with aid.

In a few months, the U.S. expects to hand over the maritime humanitarian mission to commercial companies, two U.S. officials said, explaining that it began as an emergency operation but could be continued by civilian companies over time.

For now, the European Union, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the Republic of Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States will continue to work on various aspects of the maritime effort, including inspections, financial commitments, construction and supply flows once the port is built, officials said.



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