SecDef Admits It’s Possible US Troops Could Get Into A Firefight With Gaza Terrorists

Screenshot / U.S. House Armed Services Committee / YouTube

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
Font Size:

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin insisted Tuesday that stationing troops off a humanitarian pier leading to Gaza does not count as having boots on land, while leaving wide open the possibility of a live-fire exchange with attackers on the ground.

The statement appears to undercut the Biden administration’s attempts to assuage concerns about the safety of the 1,000 U.S. troops who just began construction on the artificial port, and its insistence that the U.S. military will not be involved in combat operations in Gaza while supporting Israel’s war against Hamas. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said the administration is claiming that “boots on a pier connected to the ground connected to service members shooting into Gaza doesn’t count as boots on the ground” at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

“It does not,” Austin responded.


At least one thousand U.S. service members are involved in building the artificial floating port, pier and causeway system that will eventually support humanitarian aid deliveries to civilians in Gaza, according to the Department of Defense (DOD). The Pentagon says it’s coordinating with Israel’s military to ensure protection for U.S. troops and anchor the pier to shore without violating Biden’s promise to have no American boots on the ground in Gaza.

“We assess that the security environment around the area of Gaza that we’ve chosen to establish the [Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore] site is sufficient to support execution of the mission,” a senior defense official said. “But importantly, we reassess security every single day. And as he would do in any mission, the commander of U.S. Central Command will make a final determination on moving forward with JLOTS placement based on the security situation at the time.”

At least one attempt at disrupting the pier operations has already taken place, putting lives in danger.

Unidentified terrorist groups lobbed mortar rounds at efforts on the location laying the groundwork for the pier while U.N. officials were touring the area on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing the Israeli military. The U.N. officials retreated to secure spaces and no one was injured in the attack.

Gaetz pressed Austin at the hearing Tuesday on whether U.S. troops would be armed and respond if they received fire from attackers on shore.

“That could happen right? Shots from Gaza on our service members and then in response our armed service members shooting live fire into Gaza. That is a possible outcome here, so that we can become the port authority and run this pier, right?”

“That’s correct, and I expect that we will always have—” Austin responded before Gaetz cut him off again.

“Don’t you think that counts as boots on the ground?” Gaetz said, to which Austin disagreed.

Gaetz then accused the administration of misleading the American public. The Pentagon made an artificial distinction between placing American troops on Gazan soil, and putting them in harm’s way or increasing the likelihood of active conflict involving the U.S. military as a result of the administration’s Gaza policy, he said.

“I think you’re going to find the American people have a different perspective on that,” he said.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact