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More aid to be sent from Cyprus to Gaza, minister says

March 13, 2024 at 6:38 pm

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus Constantinos Kombos attends EU General Affairs Council Meeting in Brussels, Belgium on May 30, 2023. [Dursun Aydemir – Anadolu Agency]

A second shipment of aid will be sent from Cyprus to Gaza in the coming days, its foreign minister said today, citing growing acceptance the island could play a pivotal role in delivering supplies by sea to the shattered Palestinian enclave, Reuters reports.

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

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.

READ: The inhumanity of humanitarian aid

“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.”

Further steps on coordinating seaborne aid will be addressed in a conference call later today with US 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 today on a barge towed by the Open Arms, a salvage vessel belonging to Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms.

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 hard packed 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.

READ: 5 killed as Israeli forces shell aid distribution centre in Gaza

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.

UN officials have, however, warned that a maritime corridor for aid would not be as efficient as the delivery of aid through road.

“When it comes to delivering aid on a wide scale, there is no significant alternative to many of the land routes and entry points from Israel to Gaza.”

“The land routes from Egypt, especially Rafah, and Jordan are also essential for comprehensive humanitarian efforts,” they added.

Israel continues to block the entry of aid into Gaza by land from Egypt or within its own borders.