EuropeMiddle EastSeaWar

First Vessel With Aid for Gaza Leaves Cyprus Port: NGO

A ship loaded with 200 tons of humanitarian aid for Palestinians in war-ravaged Gaza left from Cyprus’s Larnaca port on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the NGO operating the vessel said.

“They have left,” Laura Lanuza from Spanish charity Open Arms told AFP. The tow boat and barge embarked on the journey at around 0650 GMT, the first such shipment along a maritime corridor from Cyprus aimed at carrying aid to desperate Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

With the volume of aid entering Gaza by land far below pre-war levels and aid agencies warning of famine, foreign governments including Washington have turned to airdrops and are now also trying to set up a maritime aid corridor.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said on X the inaugural voyage was “one of hope and humanity,” and would establish a “lifeline to civilians.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the ship’s departure for Gaza was a “sign of hope.”

“We will work hard together for many more ships to follow,” she posted on X. “We will do everything in our power for aid to reach Palestinians.”

Cyprus is the nearest EU member state to Gaza and the bloc has thrown its support behind the island’s plans for the maritime aid corridor.

Open Arms is partnered by American charity World Central Kitchen, with the two operating the first shipment on Tuesday.

The aid dispatched for Gaza includes “rice, flour, legumes, canned veggies and proteins,” the World Central Kitchen said on X, formerly Twitter.

“Our relief team is working to send as many aid boats as possible.”

World Central Kitchen has teams in the besieged Gaza Strip who were “constructing a dock” to unload the cargo, Lanuza told AFP last week.

The organizers have kept the location of the landing point secret for security reasons. The boat is expected to arrive off Gaza on Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Aid deliveries to Gaza by land have faced mounting obstacles, with Israel insisting on time-consuming checks on cargoes and frequent bombardments hampering distribution, aid agencies and foreign governments have said.

Israel has blamed humanitarian organizations inside Gaza for being unable to efficiently distribute aid.

The United States has said it will shore up the maritime corridor by building a “temporary pier” on the Gaza coast to receive relief supplies.

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