A U.S. military ship was headed to the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday to begin construction of a temporary dock off the coast of Gaza to allow more trucks carrying humanitarian aid to starving Palestinians, but officials say they could pass through. Up to two months before the facility is built and operational.

Army Central Command said the ship General Frank S. Besson set sail from a Mid-Atlantic U.S. base in Virginia less than 36 hours after President Joe Biden announced the humanitarian effort during his State of the Union address Thursday night.

The final plan is to send more food and medical supplies to the makeshift dock in Gaza from nearby Cyprus after Israeli forces inspect the shipment to ensure it does not include weapons for Hamas militants, who are in their sixth month of his war against Israel.

The temporary dock is necessary because Gaza lacks port infrastructure and has been subject to an Israeli naval blockade since 2007 when Hamas took control of the enclave. Since then, there have been few direct arrivals by sea.

A Spanish humanitarian ship carrying food aid was expected to leave Cyprus soon. The non-governmental group Open Arms said its ship would carry 200 tonnes of food, which its partner, the US charity World Central Kitchen, would then unload on the coast of Gaza, where it had built a basic dock.

Meanwhile, an expected ceasefire for the start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, which begins with the first sighting of the crescent moon on Sunday and Monday, has not been agreed.

Hamas negotiators left the Cairo talks last week but said talks on a possible six-week cessation of fighting in Gaza would resume in the coming days. Additionally, some of the conditions discussed were the release of some of the approximately 100 hostages remaining held by the militants in exchange for dozens of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and a large increase in humanitarian aid allowed in Gaza.

Both Hamas and Israel blamed each other for the failure of the ceasefire. Israel demanded the names of the hostages held by Hamas, and the militants pressed their call to end the war, while Israel pledged to eliminate any vestige of Hamas rule in Gaza.

The conflict began on October 7 with the shocking Hamas terrorist attack against Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to the capture of some 240 hostages. The Israeli counteroffensive in Gaza has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, controlled by Hamas, the vast majority of those killed are women and children. The Israeli army claims it has killed thousands of militants.

The United Nations has warned that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are dying of hunger and that the daily number of aid trucks that have entered Gaza by land in the last five months has been far fewer than the 500 that entered before the war due to Israeli restrictions and security problems.

The United States sends a ship to begin building the Gaza dock.
An aircraft airdrops humanitarian aid over the northern Gaza Strip, seen from southern Israel, on March 10, 2024.

The US Central Command and the Royal Jordanian Air Force carried out a combined airdrop of humanitarian aid in northern Gaza on Sunday, dropping more than 11,500 food equivalents, as well as other foodstuffs such as rice, flour, pasta and canned food.

However, authorities say the airdrops are insufficient to meet Gaza’s enormous food needs. In addition, a few days ago, five people died when a pallet of food fell on them.

As the war progresses, US President Biden has stepped up his criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s oversight of the war, although Biden has maintained his support for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas.

In an interview on MSNBC on Saturday, Biden said he believes Netanyahu is “harming Israel more than helping it” due to the high death toll among Palestinian civilians.

The American leader said Netanyahu “must pay more attention to the innocent lives lost as a result of the actions taken.” He added that “there cannot be 30,000 more Palestinians dead.”

In Gaza, Palestinian casualties continued to rise. Gaza officials said at least nine Palestinians, including children, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza City late Saturday.

Images shared by the civil defense show rescuers removing the dead and injured trapped in the collapsed house. A lifeguard was seen holding a dead baby before placing the limp body on a sofa in the rubble.

Elsewhere, the bodies of 15 people, including women and children, were taken to the main hospital in the central city of Deir al-Balah on Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

Their relatives said they had been killed by Israeli artillery fire at a large tent camp for displaced Palestinians in the coastal area east of the southern city of Khan Younis.

Israel rarely comments on specific incidents during the war. He has maintained that Hamas is responsible for civilian casualties because the militant group operates from within civilian areas.

The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.