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A Ship With Gaza Aid Preps for Trip From Cyprus to War-Ravaged Strip
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By Associated Press
Published 1 month ago on
March 8, 2024

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A ship bearing humanitarian aid is preparing to leave Cyprus on Saturday and head for Gaza.

President Joe Biden announced plans Thursday to build a temporary pier in Gaza.

Doctors report 20 malnutrition-related deaths at two northern Gaza hospitals.


LARNACA, Cyprus — A ship bearing humanitarian aid was making preparations to leave Cyprus and head for Gaza, the European Commission president said Friday as international donors launched a sea corridor to supply the besieged territory that is facing widespread hunger after five months of war.

The opening of the corridor, along with the recent inauguration of airdrops of aid, showed increasing frustration with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and a new international willingness to work around Israeli restrictions.

The vessel belonging to Spain’s Open Arms aid group will make a pilot voyage to test the corridor in the coming days, Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Cyprus, where she’s inspecting preparations for it. The ship has been waiting at Cyprus’s port of Larnaca for permission to deliver food aid from World Central Kitchen, a U.S. charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés.

Israel said Friday it welcomed the maritime corridor. But cautioned it would also need security checks.

“The Cypriot initiative will allow the increase of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, after a security check according to Israeli standards,” Lior Haiat, spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry, said on X, formerly Twitter.

The European Union, together with the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and other involved countries were launching the sea route in response to the “humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding in Gaza, Von der Leyen said at a news conference with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, with innocent Palestinian families and children desperate for basic needs,” she said.

The ship will depart for Gaza on Saturday, Christodoulides told The Associated Press.

In Brussels, commission spokesman Balazs Ujvari said the Open Arms ship’s direct route to Gaza raises a number of “logistical problems” which are still being worked out. He said U.N. agencies and the Red Cross will also play a role.

Efforts to set up a sea route for aid deliveries come amid mounting alarm over the spread of hunger among Gaza’s 2.3 million people. Hunger is most acute in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by Israeli forces for months and suffered long cutoffs of food supply deliveries.

Biden’s Plan for a Temporary Gaza Pier

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced a plan to build a temporary pier in Gaza to help deliver aid, underscoring how the U.S. has to go around Israel, its main Mideast ally and the top recipient of U.S. military aid, to deliver aid to Gaza, including through airdrops that started last week. Israel accuses Hamas of commandeering some aid deliveries.

Aid officials have said that deliveries by sea and by air are far more costly and inefficient than sending trucks by land in getting the massive amounts of aid needed to people. On Friday, five people in Gaza were killed and several others were injured when airdrops malfunctioned, hit people, and landed on homes, Palestinian officials said.

After months of warnings over the risk of famine in Gaza under Israel’s bombardment, offensives, and siege, hospital doctors have reported 20 malnutrition-related deaths at two northern Gaza hospitals.

While reiterating his support for Israel, Biden used his State of the Union speech to reiterate demands that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow in more aid to Gaza.

“To the leadership of Israel, I say this: Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip,” Biden declared before Congress. He also repeated calls for Israel to do more to protect civilians in the fighting, and to work toward Palestinian statehood as the only long-term solution to Israeli-Palestinian violence.

U.S. officials said it will likely be weeks before the Gaza pier is operational.

 

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