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Aid Ship Heads to Gaza, Where Hundreds of Thousands Face Starvation
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By Associated Press
Published 1 month ago on
March 12, 2024

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An aid ship with 200 tons of food set sail from Cyprus on Tuesday heading to Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to expand the Israeli offensive.

Conditions are especially dire in northern Gaza, which has suffered widespread devastation.


RAFAH, Gaza Strip — An aid ship loaded with some 200 tons of food set sail for Gaza on Tuesday in a pilot program for the opening of a sea corridor to the territory, where the five-month-old Israel-Hamas war has driven hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the brink of starvation.

The push to get food in by sea — along with a recent campaign of air drops into isolated northern Gaza — highlighted the international community’s frustration with the growing humanitarian crisis and its inability to get aid in by road.

The food on the aid ship was collected by World Central Kitchen, the charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, and is being transported by the Spanish aid group Open Arms. The ship departed from the eastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus and is expected to arrive in Gaza in two to three days.

The United States has separately announced plans to construct a sea bridge near Gaza to deliver aid, but it will likely be several weeks before it is operational. President Joe Biden’s administration has provided crucial military aid for Israel while urging it to facilitate more humanitarian access.

Netanyahu Vows to Expand Israeli Offensive

The war, triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, has killed over 30,000 Palestinians and driven most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people from their homes. A quarter of Gaza’s population is starving, according to the United Nations, because they cannot find enough food or afford it at vastly inflated prices.

The U.S., Qatar, and Egypt have tried to broker a cease-fire and hostage release ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began at sundown Sunday. But the talks stalled as Hamas demanded that any temporary pause in the fighting come with guarantees for ending the war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to expand the offensive into the strip’s southern city of Rafah, where half of Gaza’s population has sought refuge, and to keep fighting until Hamas has been dismantled and all the captives it is holding have been returned.

The war threatens to spill across the Middle East as Iran-backed groups allied with Hamas trade fire with U.S. and Israeli forces. The Israeli military said around 100 projectiles were launched into Israel from Lebanon early on Tuesday, one of the biggest barrages since the war began. It appeared to be in response to Israeli airstrikes deep inside Lebanon the day before.

A pair of Israeli airstrikes Tuesday in northeastern Lebanon killed at least two people and wounded 20. Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group have traded fire nearly every day since the war began.

‘Our Children Can’t Find Anything to Eat’

Aid groups say it is nearly impossible to deliver aid in much of Gaza because of Israeli restrictions, ongoing hostilities, and the breakdown of order after the Hamas-run police force largely vanished from the streets.

Conditions are especially dire in northern Gaza, which has suffered widespread devastation and has been largely cut off by Israeli forces since October. Up to 300,000 Palestinians are believed to have remained there despite Israeli evacuation orders, with many reduced to eating animal feed in recent weeks.

On Monday, the first day of the normally festive month of Ramadan, children with pots lined up at a charity kitchen in the urban Jabaliya refugee camp. Each was given a small portion of cooked carrots and sweet potatoes to break the dawn-to-dusk fast.

“Our children can’t find anything to eat,” said Bassam al-Haw, a volunteer. “No food, no water, no flour.”

Sea Route Brings Promise and Potential Peril

The planned sea route has the support of the European Union, the U.S., the United Arab Emirates, and others. The U.S. and other countries have also launched airdrops, but such efforts are costly and unlikely to meet the mounting needs.

The Open Arms ship is towing a barge loaded with food. Once it nears Gaza, two smaller vessels will tow the barge to a jetty being built by World Central Kitchen, which operates 65 kitchens across the territory, the group said. It plans to distribute the food in the north.

“The best security is to have enough food in Gaza,” Andres said. “We want to make sure nothing happens to anybody.”

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