March 06, 2024

Why sending a US Navy hospital ship to Gaza would be very difficult but ‘not impossible’

Source: Breaking Defense

Journalist: Justin Katz

The difference in ship size matters for operations planners inside the Pentagon: The much larger American hospital ships usually stay far away from foreign coastlines or ports when deployed to avoid accidental grounding. Patients are either ferried by smaller vessels or helicopter, which raises numerous security questions for a deployment to Gaza, said Jonathan Lord, a fellow at the Center for New American Security.

One option is to coordinate with Egypt to evacuate people across the border, vet them for admission to the hospital and arrange their transportation from shore to ship, but Lord warned that is not a small ask diplomatically.

The Egyptians “are incredibly rigorous and there is indeed a tremendous amount of control that the Egyptian government has put on their side of the Rafah Crossing,” said Lord, who has worked with various governments across the Middle East as both a staffer in Congress and a Pentagon policy analyst. The Rafah Crossing is the primary land route between Egypt and Gaza.

An alternative would be to put American personnel on the ground in Gaza, but that “would require real coordination with all the actors, including the Israelis, is considerably higher risk, and makes the act of airdropping foodstuffs seem small in terms of military activity,” said Lord, who added it’s likely a non-starter.

A third possibility would be for the American hospital ship to go to an Israeli port, likely yet another non-starter, Lord said, given the political and diplomatic tensions between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Read the full story and more from Breaking Defense.


  • Jonathan Lord

    Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program

    Jonathan Lord is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security program at CNAS. Prior to joining CNAS, Lord served as a professional staff member for the House Arme...