Second aid boat for war-torn Gaza readied in Cyprus: Cypriot FM

AFP , Wednesday 13 Mar 2024

A second Gaza-bound aid ship would embark from the Cypriot port of Larnaca once a boat already sailing along the new maritime corridor completes its mission, Cyprus's foreign minister said Wednesday.

Gaza aid boat
This handout photograph released by the Proactiva Open Arms (POA) shows the Open Arms vessel with the humanitarian food aid at the Cypriot port of Larnaca. AFP


Israel's war and siege on Gaza, now in its sixth month, has created a severe humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where the United Nations has repeatedly warned of looming famine.

Due to the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, only a fraction of the basic supplies needed to sustain Gaza's 2.4 million people have been let in by land.

In response, foreign governments have turned to airdrops and are now trying to open the maritime corridor from Cyprus.

Israel's war on Gaza has so far killed at least 31,272 people and wounded nearly 75,000, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza.

The Israeli blockade on food, water, and medical supplies has left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians on the verge of starvation.

The first boat, Open Arms, set sail on Tuesday in a trial for the new aid route, which UN and other humanitarian officials have said was unlikely to compensate for the lack in overland access.

The second vessel, "with bigger capacity" than the Open Arms, will be able to leave Larnaca "after the off-load" of the first one, Cypriot Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos told reporters.

"If there is no problem, we have lined up the next departure."

Pulling a barge loaded with 200 tonnes of humanitarian aid, the former salvage vessel Open Arms should take "several days" to cross the roughly 370-kilometre (230-mile) sea journey between Cyprus and Gaza, said the Spanish charity operating it, also called Open Arms.

It has not disclosed the planned unloading point on Gaza's shores, citing security concerns.

The second ship "has been in Larnaca since Saturday" and was being inspected, Kombos said, without specifying how much aid was being loaded onto it.

While the first boat was arranged "through an NGO, we have lined up a follow-up through a commercial vessel with bigger capacity," the minister added.

Once near Gaza, the aid carried by the Open Arms will be delivered onto a pier built for the operation by the US charity World Central Kitchen, which will then distribute it.

"It's a maiden trip, we need to make sure we can receive and distribute" food to the population," Kombos said.

A major concern for the delivery is "crowd management", according to the minister, who have been desperately waiting for food, with the situation particularly acute in the territory's north.

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