Charities ready to get aid to Gaza by sea from Cyprus

By Thomson Reuters Mar 10, 2024 | 7:00 AM

LARNACA, Cyprus (Reuters) – By Yiannis Kourtoglou and Stamos Prousalis

A ship carrying dozens of tonnes of food for Gaza was getting ready to leave Cyprus on Sunday, launching a yet untested maritime route to get aid to the enclave, where the United Nations estimates a quarter of the population faces starvation.

The Open Arms, a salvage vessel, will be towing a barge with 200 tonnes of food, mostly funded by the UAE. The supplies were sourced by charity World Central Kitchen (WCK), which is working with Spanish non-governmental organisation Proactiva Open Arms.

WCK said it has another 500 tonnes of supplies in Cyprus, which will be dispatched in future missions.

The pilot project envisages taking aid directly to Gaza, which has been sealed off from the outside world since Israel began its offensive in response to an Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants.

Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides, whose administration has lobbied hard for months to establish a maritime aid link from the island to Gaza, said late on Saturday he expected the mission to start “in the next 24 hours”.

This mission, if successful, would effectively signal the first easing of an Israeli naval blockade imposed on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas took control of the Palestinian enclave.

With the humanitarian crisis in Gaza becoming increasingly desperate, international players are scrambling to find alternative routes to supply aid.

The US Army has dispatched a logistics ship carrying equipment, days after U.S. President Joe Biden said the U.S. would build a temporary pier to facilitate aid deliveries.

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

Cyprus said its maritime corridor offers a fast-track workaround to getting aid delivered where needed. Cargoes are to undergo security inspections in Cyprus by a team including Israel, eliminating the need for screenings at its final offloading point to remove potential hold-ups in aid deliveries.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas, Stamos Prousalis and Yiannis Kourtoglou, writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Sharon Singleton)