First Gaza aid ship leaves Cyprus as Palestinians on brink of famine

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First Gaza aid ship leaves Cyprus as Palestinians on brink of famine

In an initial attempt to open an ocean route to deliver goods to a population that relief groups claim is on the brink of famine, a ship carrying 200 tonnes of aid for Gaza departed Cyprus on Tuesday.

Seen leaving the port of Larnaca, Cyprus, the humanitarian vessel Open Arms was dragging a barge that held protein, rice, and flour. World Central Kitchen (WCK), a US-based company, organized the expedition with primary funding from the United Arab Emirates.

Traveling to Gaza takes roughly fifteen hours, but if there is a big tow barge, it could take up to two days. Gaza is located roughly 200 miles (320 kilometers) northwest of Cyprus.

General Frank S. Besson, a US military vessel, was reportedly on its way to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza via sea.

Attention has shifted to alternate methods including airdrops and sea, with humanitarian agencies reporting that deliveries into Gaza have been hampered by security and bureaucratic roadblocks since the conflict began on October 7 with even Israel’s friends requesting easier access to the territory.
Majed Al-Ansari, a spokesman for Qatar’s foreign ministry, stated on Tuesday that talks aimed at a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the militant group in charge of Gaza, were not approaching an end.

Though the sides have not agreed on parameters to stop fighting, release captives, and bring in aid, Washington has been expressing for weeks that it hopes to reach a truce agreement for the start of this week’s holy month’s Ramadan.

The EU member state closest to the war, Cyprus, spent months planning for Tuesday’s naval supply mission. It is already seeing an increase in migrant inflows from Lebanon and is closely monitoring the knock-on effects of the instability in the Middle East. On Monday, more than four hundred individuals arrived on fishing boats.

Due to Gaza’s lack of port infrastructure, WCK said it was constructing a landing jetty using debris from demolished structures as a separate project from US President Joe Biden’s announcement last week on constructing a temporary pier.

WCK founder Jose Andres stated on X that the jetty’s construction was “well underway” and posted a photo of bulldozers leveling land near the coast.
A second vessel would depart in the coming days, said Juan Camilo Jimenez, WCK Activation Manager, who spoke with Reuters.

The speaker mentioned a WCK team that has been present in Gaza for several months. “Part of our calculation is the port will be ready when we arrive there and more importantly we have a team there to support the distribution of this aid,” the speaker added.

Although the UN humanitarian office applauded efforts, it stated that air and marine relief would not be sufficient. As long as Israel keeps the vast majority of land crossings entirely closed, aid organizations claim that such attempts will only be able to offer restricted support.
Spokesman Jens Laerke stated, “It’s not a replacement for the overland transport of food and other emergency aid into Gaza.” “It cannot make up for that.”

As long as aid is allowed through the two crossings at the southern boundary of the enclave, Israel maintains that it is not to blame for the hunger in Gaza. Aid organizations claim that is inadequate to deliver necessary supplies, especially to the effectively cut-off northern portion of the devastated enclave.

“Dire” conditions

According to UN estimates, 25% of Gaza’s inhabitants may soon starve to death.

“We are suffering in two ways: there is an absence of food, and the food that is available is unimaginably expensive,” stated Yamen, a father of four, whose family sought refuge in the central Gaza Strip’s Deir Al-Balah.

Most of the 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza have been displaced by the conflict, and over half of them are currently crowded into the southern city of Rafah, mostly in improvised tents.

At assistance distributions, where people are frantically trying to get food, there have been tragic accidents and chaotic scenes.

Palestinian health officials said on Tuesday that during throngs waiting for relief vehicles at Gaza City’s Kuwait Square, Israeli gunfire resulted in nine Palestinian deaths and several injuries. Israel refrained from commenting on the incident right away.
More than 100 Palestinians lost their lives in one event last month while waiting in line for assistance. Israel denied responsibility and said the victims had been trampled, but Gaza health officials blamed Israeli fire for the deaths.

“Bombing gatherings of hungry people has become a daily routine practiced by the occupation and seen by the international community on screens,” the Gaza Health Ministry’s spokesperson, Ashraf Al-Qidra, stated on Tuesday.

“All people who live in northern Gaza will die of hunger. There is very little aid. For the price of a lunch, you might die for sure. Aid to the northern people. Don’t let malnutrition, bombing, and illness claim them as prey.”

In an onslaught on Israel on October 7, fighters from Hamas, the organization that controls Gaza, killed 1,200 people and kidnapped 253 more, according to Israeli estimates.
Authorities in Gaza report that Israel’s military campaign of retaliation has resulted in at least 31,184 Palestinian deaths and 72,889 injuries.

With Hamas insisting it will only release prisoners as part of a deal to stop the war permanently and Israel maintaining it is only interested in a temporary truce to release hostages, ceasefire negotiations have so far failed to produce a resolution.

Along with Egypt and the US, Qatar serves as a mediator. On Tuesday, it announced that it was attempting to create a long-term ceasefire as opposed to a temporary one.

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