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First Aid Ship for Gaza Sets Off from Cyprus

Ship Gaza Cyprus
The ship is towing a barge containing flour, rice and protein. Credit: Cyprus News Agency

A ship taking almost 200 tons of food to Gaza left a port in Cyprus early on Tuesday, in a pilot project to open a new sea route of aid to a population on the brink of famine.

The charity ship Open Arms was seen sailing out of Larnaca port in Cyprus, towing a barge containing flour, rice and protein.

The war-torn region is 210 nautical miles away from the Mediterranean island.

Role of Cyprus in Gaza aid

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.

The ship belongs to a Spanish charity of the same name. Exactly where it plans to dock when it reaches Gaza has not been disclosed.

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.

The mission, mostly funded by the United Arab Emirates, is being organized by US-based charity World Central Kitchen (WCK), while the Spanish charity supplies the ship.

“Our goal is to establish a maritime highway of boats and barges stocked with millions of meals continuously headed towards Gaza,” said WCK founder Jose Andres and chief executive officer Erin Gore in a statement.

The charities intend to take aid directly to Gaza, which has been sealed off from the outside world since Israel began its offensive in response to an 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas.

With the lack of port infrastructure, WCK has said it was creating a landing jetty in Gaza with material from destroyed buildings and rubble.

It has said it had another 500 tons of aid amassed in Cyprus which would also be sent.

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.

Initiative separate from US plan

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.”

The initiative is separate from a US plan to construct and operate a floating pier close to the Gaza coast, which will allow swift delivery of humanitarian aid.

Last 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.



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