First Aid Ship Sets Off From Cyprus to Gaza

A Spanish vessel towing a barge loaded with 200 tons of food has set sail from Cyprus.
First Aid Ship Sets Off From Cyprus to Gaza

The Open Arms had set sail from the port city of Larnaca just before midnight Tuesday night (9:00 AM local time). This journey should take two days before it reaches the Gazan coast. Gaza has no functioning port, so the US charity behind the mission, World Central Kitchen, is building a jetty to receive the aid.

The UN warns that massive aid shortages in Gaza leave the area on the brink of famine. The quickest way to get aid into Gaza is via road. However, Israeli restrictions mean that only a fraction of the required aid makes it into Gaza.

If Open Arms successfully docks in Gaza, other ships will follow as part of European and Emirati maritime efforts to get aid into Gaza.

Israel says that it welcomes the creation of a maritime corridor and that it is facilitating the transfer of aid and is continuing to fight Hamas forces.

World Central Kitchen announced that its first maritime shipment of aid was on its way to Gaza on Tuesday after weeks of preparation.

Open Arms, a Spanish salvage vessel belonging to a Spanish charity of the same name, is towing a barge loaded with rice, flour, legumes, canned vegetables, and canned proteins.

While it is at sea, Palestinians working for WCK will continue to work on constructing the jetty at an undisclosed location on the coast of Gaza which will be used to offload the aid. They are using the rubble from the destroyed buildings and infrastructure. If the jetty is ready in time, WCK says that it will load the food onto trucks and distribute it to communities. The charity has a network of 60 kitchens across Gaza and has provided more than 35 million meals to the 1.7 million people in need.

“Everyone thought [it] was impossible, still many things are happening at once,” wrote Jose Andres, founder of WCK and celebrity chef, “We need to finish the jetty that will allow us to download the food! Failure is not an option… North [Gaza] needs to be fed!”

Later on Tuesday, the UN World Food Program said that it had managed to get an aid convoy into northern Gaza. This was the first aid convoy in three weeks. Enough food for 25,000 people was delivered with the agency stating that they will “need deliveries every day.”

The UN says that at least 576,000 people in Gaza are “one step away from famine.” It warns that time is running out for the 300,000 people who are isolated in northern Gaza. The UN says that they struggle to access these people due to the ongoing conflict and a breakdown of law and order.

Gaza’s health ministry says that at least 25 people, many of them children, have died in hospitals as a result of malnutrition and dehydration. On Tuesday, Palestinian media reported that nine people were killed by Israeli fire while they were waiting for aid trucks to arrive in Kuwait Square in Gaza City. The Israeli military stated that they were investigating the reports

“We are being starved in two ways: food is scarce, and the little that is available is so expensive as to be beyond imagination,” Yamen, a father of four whose family is sheltering in the central town of Deir al-Balah, told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.


WCK says that it has another 500 tons of aid stockpiled in Cyprus ready to be shipped. The goal according to the WCK is to “establish a maritime highway of boats and barges stocked with millions of meals continuously headed towards Gaza”. Open Arms is the first aid ship to set sail as part of a maritime aid corridor supported by the European Union, the UK, and the US.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said its journey was “one of hope and humanity” and that it might become a “lifeline to civilians”.

The US has launched a separate initiative that will see a military ship build a floating harbor off of Gaza’s coast. It includes a temporary pier to transport supplies to shore.

Western and Arab countries have also been carrying out airdrops however, they have been deemed to not be cost-effective.

Two senior UN officials have welcomed the opening of a maritime corridor to Gaza, but they warned that road routes were the only option to transport large quantities of aid into Gaza.

“For aid delivery at scale, there is no meaningful substitute to the many land routes and entry points from Israel into Gaza,” UN Humanitarian and Reconstruction Co-ordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag and UN Office for Project Services executive director Jorge Moreira da Silva said, “The land routes from Egypt, Rafah in particular, and Jordan also remain essential to the overall humanitarian effort.”

The UN is urging Israel to open its border crossings in the North, which have been closed since the October 7 attacks, and to allow the use of the port of Ashdod, 37 kilometers (23 miles) from Gaza, as an aid route.

Israel denies that they are impeding the entry of aid or its distribution and blames UN agencies for failing to get the aid that is allowed to people who need it.

“The UN wants you to think aid isn’t reaching northern Gaza, because it’s not reaching it… through the UN,” said government spokesman, Eylon Levy. “Far more aid trucks are reaching Gaza through Israeli coordination with the Gazan private sector – Palestinian business people.”

About 500 trucks carrying up to 20 tons of cargo were crossing into Gaza each on average before the conflict broke out. In the first 10 days of March, an average of 162 trucks were crossing Gaza daily.

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