Are Private Military Contractors Headed for Israel?

Israel may hire private military contractors to protect and distribute aid supplies in Gaza, according to several current and former U.S. officials.

Israeli officials have broached the idea in recent weeks with senior officials from the Biden administration, which is shipping the components of a floating dock to Gaza so it can deliver aid by sea. Some U.S. officials are reluctant, however, to have American troops or security contractors on the ground in Gaza, the officials said, and are especially wary of having Americans provide armed security.

The officials said the Israeli government had approached several security companies already but declined to specify which ones.

Truck deliveries continue to be the most efficient way to get large amounts of aid into Gaza, according to a senior administration official. The Biden administration has focused on getting land routes open, but the IDF has not allowed in as many trucks as the U.S. wants. The distribution of aid in northern Gaza has also been hampered by the collapse of law and order.

Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month that during a recent visit to the region, he saw 2,500 aid trucks held up outside the gates, waiting to bring supplies to Gaza.

What’s Goin’ On in Gaza

Many U.S. officials are reportedly reluctant to send U.S. citizens, be they regular servicemembers or private military contractors, to a dangerous place like Gaza. However, since a cease-fire remains elusive, it’s a dirty h-job, and somebody’s gotta do it.

Like most conflicts in the Middle East, bloodshed between Israel and Hamas has very deep roots, which, in this case, go back to ancient times.

In those days, the Philistines lived in what is now the Gaza Strip when the Hebrews (who became the Jews) invaded the area. The Philistines had Greek forefathers, and the Hebrews were Semitic. Then as now, these people did not get along too well.

The two sides fought a series of wars, with neither able to dislodge the other. The most famous conflict may have been long-haired strongman Sampson, who was a Hebrew champion, against femme fatale Delilah and her Philistine family. Hebrew teenager David against Philistine giant Goliath is probably a very close second.

Fast forward many years to the aftermath of World War II. Mostly to compensate them for the horrors of the Holocaust, the United Nations determined to give the Jews territory in their ancestral homeland. The problem was, of course, that many people, mostly Arabs, already lived there.

For reasons that remain unclear, the UN thought these two people groups could peacefully coexist, so the UN established a two-state solution that basically split Palestine 50-50 between Arabs and Jews. But the Jews believed the whole thing was theirs by divine right, and the Arabs thought the Jews were interlopers in Palestine (a derivative of the Philistine name). When David Ben Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel during an emotional speech in 1948, cannons were firing in the distance, and except for brief lulls here and there, they never stopped.

The current conflict in Gaza, the fifth major one since 2008, began on October 7, 2023. Hamas fighters rushed across the wall between Israel and Gaza, attacked several military and civilian targets, killed about 1,100 people, and grabbed about 200 hostages.

Israel claimed the assault was an unprovoked surprise attack. That classification might be mostly true, but as we know, there are usually two sides to every story like this one.

Nevertheless, in response, Israel cut off Gaza from the outside world, launched a massive bombing campaign, and followed these sustained airstrikes with a ground invasion. This combination has reportedly killed tens of thousands of people and created a humanitarian crisis for Gaza’s remaining two million residents.

Escort Duty and Possible Injuries

The fighting is intense in Gaza, but most likely, private military contractors, if deployed there, would never fire a shot. Escort duty, guard duty, and other milk-run assignments often seem like punishment to high-octane regular service members. Put to a private military contractor, it is just another day on the job.

Successful escort duty assignments do not just happen. This responsibility requires thorough preparation, diligent lookout, and safe delivery.

Escorting a supply or other convoy is not just a matter of driving from point A to point B. The route must be carefully laid out, and if the route changes, everyone must be on the same page. If the route or planning is incorrect or inadequate, things go south in a big way. A wrong turn started World War I.

Escort duty is very nerve-wracking. Private military contractors cannot be trigger-happy, but they must respond appropriately to actual and pending threats. Furthermore, a contractor’s responsibility does not end at Point B. Contractors must ensure safe delivery and pitch in where needed, even if that means moving boxes.

An escort contractor is basically a combination of a combat contractor and a warehouse worker. Therefore, the risk of serious injury is much higher. Falls are a good example of this dual risk.

IED and other bomb blasts often cause falls. The force of an explosion propels victims through the air. This motion, along with the hard landing, usually causes broken bones, internal injuries, and head injuries.

On a related note, the explosive blast itself could cause a head injury. Sudden loud noises create shock waves that permanently disrupt brain functions.

Falls are also common in warehouse situations. That’s especially true in chaotic distribution situations. So many people are clamoring for supplies that it’s easy to lose one’s balance or hold an unusual amount of weight at an unusual angle.

Benefits Eligibility

If American contractors serve in Gaza, they might technically be employees of Israel or a branch of the United States government, most likely the DoD. Either way, injured contractors could be eligible for Defense Base Act benefits. Eligibility extends to U.S. government-employed contractors as well as contractors employed by some sympathetic foreign governments.

On a related note, benefits are available regardless of citizenship. Undocumented residents and foreign non-residents may receive compensation for their injuries.

Additionally, the contractor must be injured in an overseas war zone. “Overseas” usually means anywhere outside the fifty states. “War zone” means a place that has any U.S. military presence, such as a Marine guard at an embassy.

These benefits include lost wage replacement and medical bill payment. Most victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of their permanent or temporary disabilities. DBA benefits also cover all reasonably necessary medical expenses.

For more information about these benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.