What Biden Must Do Now To Curb Israel In Gaza And Protect Innocent Civilians

@LucianKTruscott
What Biden Must Do Now To Curb Israel In Gaza And Protect Innocent Civilians

Pallets of food and water for Gaza airdrop loaded on USAF C-130 cargo plane, March 1, 2024

USAF Photo via Reuters

If there is one military phrase I have gotten tired of over the last 20 years or so it is “boots on the ground.” Foreign policy poo-bahs call for boots on the ground every time they want to flap their hawk wings over a conflict they want us engaged in or an area of the world they think we should pay more attention to…as if having more than 140 separate American military installations and outposts around the world, each full of boots on the ground, isn’t enough.

But the truth is, we don’t need to order up a military response to flex our foreign policy muscles. We don’t need boots on the ground when we’ve got the kind of power that allows us to bigfoot problems we see a solution to when everything else isn’t working.

President Joe Biden has apparently finally had enough of Israel’s increasingly callous disregard for the lives of Gazan civilians. Today he announced that the U.S. will soon begin air-dropping food aid and medical supplies to starving Palestinians in Gaza. Biden should have airdropped aid back when we were trying to get Israel to go along with the opening of the border checkpoint between Gaza and Egypt early in the war. He should have done the same thing when stories began to come out of Gaza that hospitals were running out of basic supplies like saline drips, oxygen, bandages, painkillers and antibiotics.

What set Biden off was the still unfolding story of the incident around a small convoy of aid trucks in Gaza City. Early Thursday morning, while it was still dark, a crowd described as in the thousands mobbed several aid trucks even before the trucks came to a stop. Gazan health officials reported that more than 100 civilians were killed. How those deaths occurred is disputed, with Gazan officials saying that several Israeli tanks opened fire on the crowd, and Israeli military officials saying the deaths occurred when the crowd surged toward the trucks as they came to a stop.

Late on Friday, the New York Times released drone footage of part of the incident obtained from the Israeli military. The footage appears to have been shot with an infrared camera, so it is blurry, and the images of human beings appear as dark figures against a bright background, as in a photo negative. The Times reported that the drone videos “do not fully explain the sequence of events. Videos show panic, including people ducking for cover and taking food from trucks.”

The trucks arrive in a line, well-spaced from one another. On a road running parallel to the trucks are several Israeli armored vehicles. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of figures rush toward the trucks and gather around them in thick knots of people. Then something happens, and people begin to scatter. A few can be seen falling to the ground and crawling toward cover.

Reporting by the Times from inside Gaza quoted witnesses saying they had not seen anyone trampled to death by the crowd but had seen multiple people with gunshot wounds. The Times reported from Israel that “Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, acknowledged that Israeli troops had opened fire ‘when a mob moved in a manner which endangered them’ without giving details.”

The drone video footage does not show the crowd attacking the Israeli armored vehicles. It is worth noting that had the armored vehicles come under fire, their armor would have protected them from bullets fired by small arms.

A doctor at Kamal Adwan Hospital in Gaza City said 150 wounded and 12 who had died were brought to the hospital. He said 95 percent of them had gunshot wounds. A doctor interviewed on the scene in Gaza said he had seen “dozens of people with gunshot wounds but also people who appeared to have died in a stampede or to have been hit by aid trucks,” according to the Times.

This is another incident that has happened in the fog of war since Israel began its attacks in Gaza in October. The bombing of a Gaza hospital early in the war was another example, with Israeli and Gazan officials disputing whether the bomb that hit a parking lot on hospital grounds was an Israeli missile or a Hamas missile that was shot out of the sky by Israeli air defenses.

Unless there is better drone footage that Israel has not released, or somehow reports of wounded and dead in Gazan hospitals can be confirmed independently, we’ll probably never know the exact details of what happened on Thursday in Gaza City, but from what we know right now, it doesn’t look good for Israel. That part of Gaza was said to be cleared of Hamas fighters and demilitarized two or three months ago. It seems unlikely that Israeli armored vehicles could have come under an attack sufficiently threatening that they would have the need to shoot into a crowd of civilians trying to get food supplies from aid trucks.

This is why Biden’s announcement of air drops of food and medical aid is absolutely the right thing to do at this point. The U.S. has been trying to get Israel to open points along its border with Gaza so that aid could be trucked in from inside Israel in addition to the aid that has come in through Egypt, but Israel has resisted these U.S. efforts.

But what is Netanyahu going to do? Have his air force shoot down U.S. C-130’s dropping pallets of food and medical supplies into Gaza? The other thing the U.S. could do that we haven’t done is move aid directly into Gaza from the sea. The Times reported that creating a makeshift port on the Gaza coast has been considered, but “setting up such a facility in a secure way presents a challenge, officials said. The United States would not use American troops to build the temporary facility or use American amphibious landing craft.”

The reason for this sort of equivocation is Pentagon fears of having U.S. troops in an active combat zone even if they are only engaged in work that would help to supply humanitarian aid. But this is where bigfooting comes in. Biden could tell Netanyahu that’s what we’re going to do and threaten to withdraw military aid and the U.S. vote in the U.N. Security Council if Israel will not agree to allow the construction of a temporary supply port on the Gazan coast without Israeli interference.

Biden is going to have to bring the situation in Gaza under control sooner rather than later. He needs to take strong action to bring about a cease fire, and even before that happens, he should be seen making decisive moves to help Gaza’s civilian population with food and medical aid.

We are the biggest, most powerful country in the world, and we are Israel’s strongest ally. That gives us power that we have not yet brought to bear to end the war in Gaza. Air drops of aid to Gazan civilians is a good first step, but that’s all it is.

We need to do more, and we need to do it now. If President Biden wants to draw a bright line between his foreign policy goals and Trump’s avowed isolationism and support of Russia, now is the time, and the disaster in Gaza is the place.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Dave McCormick

Dave McCormick

David McCormick, who is Pennsylvania's presumptive Republican U.S. Senate nominee, has often suggested he grew up poor in a rural community. But a new report finds that his upbringing was far more affluent than he's suggested.

Keep reading...Show less
Reproductive Health Care Rights

Abortion opponents have maneuvered in courthouses for years to end access to reproductive health care. In Arizona last week, a win for the anti-abortion camp caused political blowback for Republican candidates in the state and beyond.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}