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Humanitarian Aid Ship From Cyprus to Gaza Waiting to Sail

Gaza after airstrikes. Credit: Al Araby / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

A ship loaded with tons of food for Gaza remained docked in a Cyprus port on Sunday as preparations unfolded for the launch of a yet untested maritime aid route to the enclave.

The European Union, United States, United Arab Emirates, and other partners are actively coordinating the establishment of this crucial maritime aid corridor from Cyprus to Gaza. The United Nations estimates a quarter of the population in the region faces starvation.

However, the exact timing for the aid departure remained uncertain. According to Reuters, although the cargo was completed late on Saturday, sources indicated that the departure was partly contingent on the creation of a makeshift jetty in Gaza to facilitate deliveries, given the strip’s lack of port infrastructure.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Friday that a pilot operation will depart Cyprus this weekend to inaugurate the sea route, which is based on Cyprus’ “Amalthea Initiative.” The Commission President said that this is going to be a mechanism for securely shipping aid from the island to Gaza.

A ship operated by Spanish NGO Open Arms has already been loaded with two hundred tons of food from US charity organization World Central Kitchen and is waiting in Cyprus’ port of Larnaca for the green light to sail to Gaza. The war-torn region is 210 nautical miles away from the Mediterranean island.

Cyprus has played a critical role in mediating the deal, leveraging its strategic location as the EU’s southeastern-most member and its historical ties bridging Europe and the Middle East.

President Nikos Christodoulides has said that the maritime corridor, which has been in the works since October, can become a “sustained, long-term lifeline” for Gaza’s civilians.

The EU, US, UK, and UAE issued a joint statement recently, endorsing the plan but cautioned that delivering aid by sea will be complex and efforts will need to be continually adjusted.

Israel, a close ally of Cyprus, said it welcomes the initiative but stressed that shipments must undergo security checks “according to Israeli standards.”

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden announced the US military will lead construction of a temporary floating pier off Gaza’s coast to enable ships to deliver large quantities of aid in the coming weeks. The pier could take sixty days to complete and will not involve US boots on the ground in Gaza.

The situation in Gaza

The sea corridor comes as Gaza slides into famine conditions after five months of war and siege by Israel.

Over thirty thousand Palestinians have been killed and nearly two million have been displaced. Deaths due to malnutrition are being reported in Gaza’s north, which has suffered the most acute shortages.

Aid groups say deliveries by sea or air cannot substitute for shipping aid by trucks, which remains severely constrained at Gaza’s land crossings both with Egypt and Israel. However, they welcome any avenue to increase the flow of life-saving assistance.

According to Euronews, the maritime corridor signals growing international frustration with the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza and a willingness to circumvent Israel’s tight restrictions on aid deliveries.

With ceasefire talks stalled, many innocent Palestinian lives hang in the balance as the international community races to stave off mass starvation.

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