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Gaza aid from Britain screened in Cyprus and sent via Egypt

January 2, 2024 at 4:22 pm

Humanitarian aid trucks sent by UNRWA and Red Crescent pass through Rafah Border Crossing on Egyptian border as they drive to a storage of UNRWA, in Rafah, Gaza on December 18, 2023 [Abed Rahim Khatib – Anadolu Agency]

Britain and Cyprus have sent 87 tonnes of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip via Egypt, the two countries said today. According to Reuters, Cypriot officials added that they had successfully tested a cargo screening mechanism offering an alternative route for badly-needed supplies for the Palestinian territory.

The 1 January delivery to Port Said in Egypt for transfer to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing fell short of the ultimate objective of Cyprus to establish a direct aid corridor to the Israel-besieged Palestinian enclave. However, for the first time, it offered a workaround on how aid could be accelerated by eliminating security checks in Israel itself, explained officials.

The Cypriot initiative to create a sustained, one-way sea route into Gaza entails aid undergoing security checks in Cyprus by government agencies, including from Israel, before being dispatched onwards from the eastern Mediterranean island. “The international community now has a workable alternative at its disposal to send additional humanitarian aid to the population of Gaza,” said Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides in a written statement.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Britain was committed to supporting the people of Gaza. “Significantly more aid needs to reach Gaza to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people,” he added.

Israel’s offensive is nearly 12 weeks old. The apartheid state is determined to destroy the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, despite global calls for a ceasefire. The movement launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on 7 October against Israeli military bases and settlements in the vicinity of Gaza, during which 1,139 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed, many of them by “friendly fire” from the Israel Defence Forces.

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The operation was in response to “daily Israeli attacks against the Palestinian people and their sanctities,” said Hamas, notably Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem. Around 240 Israelis were captured during the operation, 110 of whom have already been exchanged for some of the thousands of Palestinians held by Israel.

Palestinian health authorities say more than 22,000 people have been killed in Israeli air strikes since 7 October, most of them children and women. Israeli bombs have laid much of the occupied Palestinian territory to waste. Thousands more Palestinians are buried under the rubble of their homes and other civilian infrastructure. Nearly all the enclave’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes, many several times, creating a humanitarian disaster, as most are homeless and acutely short of food, water, medicine and fuel.

Eli Cohen, Israel’s outgoing foreign minister, said on Sunday that his country is prepared to let ships deliver aid to the war-ravaged enclave “immediately”.

Cyprus is situated some 370 km (230 miles) north-west of Gaza; it is the closest EU member state to the region. Its plan is meant to expand capacity for humanitarian relief to the Gaza Strip beyond limited deliveries now being made overland through Rafah.

Any direct sailings to Gaza with Israel’s consent would mark the first easing of an Israeli naval blockade imposed on Gaza since 2007 after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian Legislative election and then thwarted an attempted coup backed by the US and Israel.

However, underscoring the logistical challenges that direct delivery of aid by sea will face, the British Royal Fleet auxiliary ship RFA Lyme Bay which offloaded thermal blankets, shelter packs and medicine in Egypt on Monday was at sea for at least 10 days awaiting clarification about whether it could sail directly to Gaza, sources with knowledge of the situation said. The direct route is not currently useable due to requirements including security matters which have “not been met at this point in time”, one of those sources said. “The situation is very dynamic and we will continue to deliberate with all relevant stakeholders on the best time and way to operationalise the initiative.”

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