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As a U.S. aid ship heads to Gaza, Biden again warns Netanyahu on civilian deaths

The U.S. Army Vessel General Frank S. Besson has departed Joint Base Langley-Eustis on its way to the eastern Mediterranean to help build a temporary aid port in Gaza, the U.S. military said.
U.S. Central Command
The U.S. Army Vessel General Frank S. Besson has departed Joint Base Langley-Eustis on its way to the eastern Mediterranean to help build a temporary aid port in Gaza, the U.S. military said.

A U.S. Army ship was on its way to the Mediterranean on Saturday, less than two days after President Biden announced that the military would head up an emergency mission to build a temporary pier in Gaza that can receive large aid shipments.

The expansion of U.S. aid efforts to Gaza comes amid signs of growing tension between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel's military operations in Gaza, which have left more than 31,000 Palestinians dead, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

On Thursday, Biden announced during his State of the Union address that the U.S. would lead a global effort to get more aid into Gaza by helping to construct a temporary pier. Biden has steadfastly maintained that Israel has a right to defend itself, but said in his address that it also has a "fundamental responsibility" to protect innocent civilians in Gaza.

The U.S. has already begun airdroppingfood into Gaza, but the president said the pier would be able to receive large shipments of food, water, medicine and temporary shelters. No "U.S. boots will be on the ground" as part of the mission, Biden said.

Administration officials saidother countries were expected to assist the U.S. in the effort to develop the pier, and that workers from the United Nations and other aid groups would disperse the aid.

"A temporary pier will enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day," Biden said in his address.

U.S. Central Command said Saturday in a post on X that the U.S. Army Vessel General Frank S. Besson had departed Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia and was on its way to the eastern Mediterranean.

A logistics support vessel, the Besson is carrying the initial equipment necessary to construct the temporary pier, according to CENTCOM.

Since the war between Israel and Hamas began in October, the U.S. government has both pressed for the delivery of aid to the besieged residents of Gaza while also expressing support for its longtime ally Israel.

But over the weekend, Biden cautioned that Netanyahu is "hurting Israel more than helping Israel" in his response to the Oct. 7 attack, when Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel and killed approximately 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

Biden said the Israeli leader should pay closer attention to the growing number of Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza.

Respondingto Biden's comments in an interview with Politico, Netanyahu said he didn't know exactly what the president meant, "but if he meant that I'm pursuing private policies against the wish of the majority of Israelis and that this is hurting the interest of Israel, then he's wrong on both counts."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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