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Ship carrying aid to Gaza departs from Cyprus

March 12, 2024

(CNN) — A ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza has departed the port city of Larnaca in Cyprus, according to World Central Kitchen, a non-profit which said it is the first maritime shipment of aid to the war-torn strip.

“After weeks of preparation, our team in Cyprus loaded almost 200 tons of food onto the Open Arms boat that will deliver the desperately-needed aid,” WCK said in a statement on Tuesday.

The non-profit said it had partnered with the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus and the Spanish charity Open Arms to coordinate the dispatch.

The aid dispatch comes as Cyprus, the European Commission, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom are working to establish a maritime corridor to deliver aid assistance directly to Gaza.

The ship was originally expected to depart Sunday from Larnaca, Cyprus, but had been delayed due to “practical issues,” the Cypriot government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis said in a briefing Monday.

The ship set sail at 8:45 a.m. local time Tuesday from Cyprus.

The ship is normally a search and rescue vessel used by the NGO Open Arms.

To transport the pallets from the barge and the ship to land, a temporary jetty will be built in an undisclosed location in Gaza, though the precise details of the effort are unclear.

On Sunday, WCK Founder Jose Andres said the jetty would be built with material and infrastructure in Gaza with help from barges and amphibious vehicles.

He said on X that the pier would be built “With @openarms_fund serving as our logistics and command in the water…carrying the initial barge near the beach….plus a big cargo boat for reloading.”

The ship will be towing a large barge packed with pallets of food aid, including rice, flour, beans, lentils, and canned meats.

World Central Kitchen says it has served more than 35 million meals in Gaza since October and is working with almost 400 locally hired staff.

The ongoing delivery comes as northern Gaza is on the brink of famine as aid deliveries fall short, according to the head of the UN World Food Programme.

The number of children dying of malnutrition and dehydration in the area is rising, including two newborn girls on Monday, a paediatrician at the Kamal Adwan Hospital said.

Israel’s siege on Gaza has drastically diminished essential supplies entering the strip, where Palestinians are facing starvation, dehydration and hunger.

Israeli authorities insist there is “no limit” on the amount of relief that can enter Gaza, but humanitarian groups have repeatedly warned Israel’s restrictions on land crossings into the strip has throttled aid distribution efforts.

Humanitarian workers and government officials working to deliver urgently needed aid for Gaza say a clear pattern has emerged of Israeli obstruction.

The Israeli agency that controls access to Gaza for the multi-billion-dollar aid effort has imposed arbitrary and contradictory criteria, according to more than two dozen humanitarian and government officials interviewed by CNN.

The Open Arms vessel was seen docked in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on March 11. (Photo Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)


By Scott McLean, CNN

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