Cyprus says second aid ship ready to leave for Gaza

AFP , Saturday 16 Mar 2024

A second ship loaded with aid for Gaza could depart as early as Saturday, Cyprus said, as the first vessel returned from the war-ravaged territory after successfully delivering its cargo.

Cyprus ship
The second vessel, left, with food aid from aid group World Central Kitchen prepares to depart for Gaza, at Larnaca port, Cyprus, Saturday, March 16, 2024. AP


The Jennifer was set "to depart for Gaza today or tomorrow," foreign ministry spokesperson Theodoros Gotsis told state radio.

The maritime aid corridor from Cyprus is meant to at least partly address stark shortages in Gaza after more than five months of Israeli war and siege of the territory, as UN agencies warn of looming famine.

Earlier on Saturday, the US charity World Central Kitchen said its team had finished unloading food and other desperately needed supplies from the barge towed by Spanish aid vessel Open Arms, which left Cyprus on Tuesday in a trial run for the aid corridor.

"All cargo was offloaded and is being readied for distribution in Gaza," World Central Kitchen said in a statement, noting it included "almost 200 tonnes of food".

The second vessel was expected to carry 240 tonnes of food, World Central Kitchen said.

The cargo would include "pallets of canned goods and bulk product including beans, carrots, canned tuna, chickpeas, canned corn, parboiled rice, flour, oil and salt," the charity said.

It would also include a forklift and a crane to assist with deliveries, it said.

The United Arab Emirates has sent "a special load of 120 (kilogrammes of) fresh dates," it added.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters that Open Arms "has begun to return" to Cyprus "and we are ready to send the second ship with humanitarian aid to Gaza."

The Spanish charity that owns the first vessel, also named Open Arms, said it would get back to Cyprus on Sunday and could participate in future aid deliveries.

A first 'test'

With Israel's siege of Gaza making the delivery of aid via ground routes impossible, donors have pursued alternatives including airdrops and maritime shipments.

World Central Kitchen built a makeshift jetty southwest of Gaza City to receive Friday's shipment but US troops are on their way to build a larger pier.

The Israeli military said troops had secured the area around the jetty while the Open Arms shipment was unloaded. It said it had inspected the cargo before delivery.

World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres said on X that the first shipment was "a test" and that "we could bring thousands of tonnes each week."

Israel's war on Gaza has killed at least 31,553 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza.

More than 85 percent of the population has been displaced, with over 1.4 million seeking shelter in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, the last refuge for Palestinians displaced by Israel's war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans on Friday to proceed with an Israeli ground invasion of the border city soon.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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