Gaza: Aid ship sets sail from Cyprus port carrying 200 tonnes of food

This is the first aid ship to travel along the Cyprus-Gaza sea corridor

Gaza aid ship from Cyprus Aid ship sails, amidst a test to launch a new sea route from a port in Cyprus to deliver aid to residents of the Gaza Strip who are on the brink of famine, at sea | Reuters

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 people to the brink of starvation.

The food was gathered by World Food Kitchen, the charity founded by celebrity chef Jos Andrs, and is being carried on a barge attached to a ship belonging to the Spanish aid group Open Arms. It is expected to arrive at an undisclosed location on the Gaza coastline in two to three days. Andrs and the Open Arms boat captain, Oscar Camps, confirmed the food was destined for northern Gaza.

On Saturday evening, Andrs told The Associated Press in a brief interview they wanted to keep the location under wraps to avoid a repetition of the Feb. 29 incident that saw Israeli troops firing on a large crowd of Palestinians racing to pull food off an aid convoy in Gaza City, killing over 100 people, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The United States has separately announced plans to construct a sea bridge near Gaza in order to deliver aid, but it will likely be several weeks before it is operational.

Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides posted on X social media platform X that the inaugural voyage was one of hope and humanity and that food being delivered is a lifeline to civilians. The Cypriot government initially pitched the idea of using the east Mediterranean island nation as a base to send aid to Gaza by ship.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanked the Cypriot president and wrote on X that the ship's departure wasa sign of hope, and vowed to "do everything in our power for aid to reach Palestinians.

The war, triggered by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack into Israel has killed over 30,000 Palestinians and driven some 80% of Gaza's 2.3 million people from their homes. The U.N. says a quarter of the population is starving.

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

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

The planned sea route has the support of the European Union, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. The U.S. and other countries have also launched airdrops of aid in recent days, but aid groups say those efforts are costly and unlikely to meet the mounting needs.

Once the ship nears Gaza, two smaller vessels will tow the barge to a jetty that World Central Kitchen is building at an undisclosed location, organizers said. The food charity then plans to distribute it through the 60 kitchens it operates across Gaza.

Israel says it supports the effort and will be inspecting all cargo before it sets sail for Gaza.

The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into Israel in a surprise attack on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage. Hamas is still believed to be holding around 100 hostages, and the remains of 30 others, after releasing most of the rest last year in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Gaza's Health Ministry says the Israeli offensive launched in response to the attack has killed at least 31,112 Palestinians. The ministry doesn't differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but it has said women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Israel blames the civilian death toll on Hamas because the militants fight in dense, residential areas and position fighters, tunnels and rocket launchers near homes, schools and mosques. The military has said it has killed 13,000 Hamas fighters, without providing evidence.


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