Pentagon chief contradicts Biden‘s claim of ‘no boots on the ground‘ in Gaza

The Cradle, May 1, 2024  ̶   

Palestinian factions have warned that western troops deployed to Gaza‘s coast will be treated as ‘legitimate targets‘ for resistance.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on 30 April that US troops building a floating pier along Gaza’s coast would have the ability and authority to open fire into the besieged enclave “to protect themselves,” putting into question US President Joe Biden‘s earlier claims that Washington would have “no boots on the ground” in Gaza.

“[There will] be about 1,000 US service members operating a pier system off of Gaza. How many of them will have guns, Mr Secretary?” Representative Matt Gaetz asked the US war chief during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.

“Typically, all of the deployed service members carry guns, and they have the ability to protect themselves if challenged,” Austin replied.

“Don’t you think that counts as boots on the ground? President Biden told the country that we were not going to have boots on the ground in Gaza,” Gaetz pressed Austin, to which he replied, “And we won’t.”


“Okay, but you guys parse the distinction between … Like when Americans think boots on the ground, they think Americans in harm’s way or engaged actively in a conflict. You guys seem to be sort of saying that boots on a pier, connected to the ground, connected to service members shooting into Gaza, doesn’t count as boots on the ground?” Gaetz continued.

“It does not,” Austin replied, failing to explain the distinction.

“If we’re gonna have people shooting into Gaza, we probably should have a vote on that, pursuant to our war powers,” the Republican lawmaker added.

Last year, Gaetz introduced a War Powers Resolution legislation to end Washington’s illegal occupation of large swathes of Syria, arguing that US law had never authorized a military intervention in the country. The legislation was struck down a few weeks later in a 103-321 vote in the House of Representatives.

US troops are building a $320 million “Joint Logistics Over The Shore” jetty system off the coast of Gaza to allegedly “ease the flow” of humanitarian aid into the strip. Biden announced the project nearly two months ago in response to Tel Aviv’s refusal to open border crossings into the enclave and blockades of aid convoys by Israeli settlers.

Regional experts have warned that the floating pier could facilitate the mass deportation of Gaza’s population by sea.

“This military tactical port will receive Israeli approval because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been seeking this idea since the beginning of the war, aiming for the voluntary displacement of Gazans and their [flight] to Europe,” Hisham Khreisat, a Jordanian military and strategic affairs expert, told Turkiye’s Anadolu Agency in March.

Earlier this week, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) warned that UK troops deployed to Gaza or its coast would be treated as occupying forces and legitimate targets for resistance after London confirmed its forces would be involved in the security and delivery of aid by sea.

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