The humanitarian corridor from Cyprus to Gaza was inaugurated with the sailing of a ship loaded with 80 tons of aid for Gaza, state broadcaster CyBC reported on Monday.
According to the CyBC report, the ship, the British Royal Navy’s “Lyme Bay” vessel was loaded with some 80 tons of aid stored in the Larnaca port. It was added that the ship was escorted by British navy warships and was headed for an Israeli port.
Until now, the only aid route into the war-shattered coastal enclave is over land from Egypt at Rafah, but there was an increasing diplomatic push to use ships as they could deliver five hundred times more aid than trucks.
CyBC reported that Israel gave its approval for the dispatch of the aid cargo after the arrival of a second team of Israeli technocrats who followed the procedures of scrutinizing and loading the aid.
The CyBC report said the aid sent to Gaza is comprised mostly of tents donated by Britain, to which several tons of aid offered by Cyprus were added. Israel has said it has opened a second aid corridor in the northern part of Gaza.
Cyprus says inaugural shipment to Gaza could open full humanitarian corridor
Deputy government spokesman Yiannis Antoniou clarified that the success of this inaugural aid mission will influence Israel’s decision on whether to proceed with the full implementation of the humanitarian corridor plan.
Emphasizing the need for guaranteed security conditions in the next phase, he highlighted the necessity of a prolonged ceasefire to enable the safe travel of ships carrying substantial volumes of humanitarian aid to Gaza and back. The outcome of this initial mission will play a pivotal role in shaping future endeavors for humanitarian assistance in the region.
Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides said on Sunday that official announcements on the inauguration of the aid corridor could be made soon. Christodoulides first proposed opening a maritime corridor to help deliver more aid to Gaza in early November.
He said the operations center would be based in the southern Cypriot city of Larnaca, where there is a port and airport, and where a coordination center with thirty-three countries is already in place.
The port’s capacity would be two hundred thousand tons of humanitarian aid, enabling two thousand tons of aid transfers per vessel. Humanitarian aid would arrive in Cyprus and be sent on vessels checked daily by a joint committee including Israel, he said.
Once loaded, convoys would be followed by warships to an area identified on the Gaza coast, from where it would be sent to a safe, neutral area. “For the medium and long-term, there are several steps to designate a port and adapted floating harbor,” Christodoulides said, adding that the European Commission, Greece, France, and the Netherlands were keen to get involved.
“We need to identify a zone in the south of Gaza to create the port infrastructure,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. “If these conditions are fulfilled Greece would be ready to help with naval ships.”