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Palestinians gather on a beach in the hope of getting aid air-dropped over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the southern Gaza Strip February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Palestinians gather on a beach in the hope of getting aid air-dropped over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the southern Gaza Strip February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Cyprus to Gaza Sea Route Gaining Steam

Reuters
Total Views: 1062
March 13, 2024
Reuters

By Michele Kambas and Yiannis Kourtoglou

NICOSIA, March 13 (Reuters) – A second shipment of aid will be sent from Cyprus to Gaza in coming days, its foreign minister said on Wednesday, citing growing acceptance the island could play a pivotal role in delivering supplies by sea to the shattered Palestinian enclave.

A ship carrying almost 200 tonnes of food aid for Gaza left Cyprus on Tuesday, launching a new but untested maritime route to get emergency supplies to a population humanitarian agencies say is at risk of starvation after five months of war.

A new shipment is in the pipeline, Cypriot Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos said.

Cyprus, the closest European Union member state to the Middle East, had campaigned for months to win acceptance of its plan to establish a maritime corridor straight to coastal Gaza, given serious obstacles to getting aid in by land.

“The whole point is to try to offer much needed assistance to the people who are in this horrible situation,” Kombos told a small group of journalists. 

“You can’t do it alone. We need a coalition of willing participants, and that has matured in the last two to three weeks to a point where it has taken on a very rapid pace.” 

Army JLOTS Unit Sets Sail on Gaza Pier Mission

Further steps on coordinating seaborne aid will be addressed in a conference call later on Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, British counterpart David Cameron, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, and a representative of the European Commission, according to Kombos.

Mostly funded by the UAE, food collected by charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) was slowly making its way across the Mediterranean on Wednesday on a barge towed by the Open Arms, a salvage vessel belonging to Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms. 

‘CONFIDENT’

The timing of its arrival in Gaza remains unclear. WCK, which has been on the ground for months, has had workers scrambling to create a hardpacked rubble-and-earth wharf on Gaza’s coast to allow the vessel to approach. 

“We are confident that when the aid gets to Gaza there will be a way to offload it and get it into the hands of Gazans who are starving and need this food aid urgently,” said Linda Roth, chief communications officer at WCK.

She was speaking at a warehouse on the outskirts of Larnaca where aid workers were packing tinned food onto pallets. 

The objective, Roth said, was to create a “maritime highway,” while Kombos, who spoke in Nicosia, said the next dispatch would be a bigger cargo.

“It will be a mothership which has a higher carriage capacity,” Kombos said. 

Cyprus says cargoes for Gaza can undergo security inspections on the island by teams which include Israel, eliminating the need for screenings at their offloading points to eliminate potential hold-ups in aid deliveries.

The United States is pressing Israel, which invaded Gaza after Hamas’ cross-border attack on Oct. 7 and maintained a tight siege since, to allow greater overland access to the enclave for aid operations. 

Israel denies restricting humanitarian aid and says poor U.N. management of distribution is to blame for shortfalls.

The U.S. has begun airdropping aid into Gaza but humanitarian groups say air drops are more expensive and limited in capacity than deliveries by truck.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas; editing by Mark Heinrich)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2024.

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