The war between Israel and Gaza: The Gaza aid ship has not yet left Cyprus

  • Written by Sofia Ferreira Santos
  • BBC News

Image source, World Central Kitchen

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The ship “Open Arms” will tow a barge loaded with dry and canned food for the residents of Gaza

A ship carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza remains anchored in Cyprus, a day after it was scheduled to begin its voyage.

A charity leading the mission told the BBC that the situation was “rapidly evolving and fluid”, but it hoped the Open Arms ship would set sail soon.

On Sunday evening, the sighting of the new crescent marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan in Gaza.

A ceasefire remains off the table, with indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas largely stalled.

The United Nations has warned that famine in Gaza is “almost inevitable” and that children are starving to death.

Relief agencies and Western politicians say that the best way to deliver the necessary amount of aid to Gaza is by land.

Last week, British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said that the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union continue to urge Israel “to allow more trucks into Gaza as the fastest way to get aid to those who need it.”

He also said that Israel must open the container port in Ashdod, north of Gaza, to receive aid shipments from Cyprus until a sea corridor is established and operational.

Israel denies obstructing the entry or distribution of aid into Gaza, and blames UN agencies on the ground for failing to deliver permitted aid to people who need it.

The Open Arms mission is separate from US plans to begin building a floating dock off the coast of Gaza to help deliver aid by sea.

The US military ship General Frank S. Beeson set sail from a base in Virginia on Saturday and is sailing toward the Middle East, carrying equipment to build a temporary dock that could allow large ships carrying aid to be unloaded.

But the Pentagon said it could take up to 60 days to build the pier with the help of 1,000 troops, none of whom would make it to shore.

Meanwhile, the Open Arms ship will be the first ship to sail from Cyprus to Gaza under the sea corridor plan announced by the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The rescue ship, which remains docked in the Cypriot coastal city of Larnaca, is owned by a Spanish charity of the same name.

Food is provided by World Central Kitchen (WCK), an American charity founded by famous Spanish chef José Andrés.

In a video posted from the port of Larnaca on Monday morning, WCK's Juan Camilo said “everything is ready” for the ship to sail.

“From this aspect we are ready to go and we have our team ready in Gaza to do so [distribute] He added, “This is what we hope will be the first of the largest possible number of trips to Gaza by sea.”

The boat will tow a barge loaded with 200 tons of food, including rice, flour, and canned meat and fish. The journey is expected to take about 50 hours.

A WCK spokesperson told the BBC that the charity had begun building a jetty on the Gaza coast to deliver food to shore.

Some observers have questioned plans to deliver aid by sea. The independent expert on human rights at the United Nations, Michael Fakhri, said that the US military operation to build a sea dock would not “prevent famine by any definition.”

As the humanitarian situation worsened, many countries resorted to airdrops.

Aid trucks enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel, after strict Israeli security inspections of the goods.

But both crossings are located in southern Gaza, and fighting and the collapse of social order have prevented convoys from reaching northern Gaza, where an estimated 300,000 people live with very little food and water.

Two Israeli-controlled crossings in northern Gaza have been closed since Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel on October 7.

US President Joe Biden said on Sunday that the suffering of the Palestinians will be “at the top of his priorities” and that of many others, with the arrival of the month of Ramadan “at a moment of great pain.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also marked the beginning of the holy month with a video message of “solidarity and support for all those suffering from the atrocities in Gaza.”

The Israeli military launched an air and ground campaign in Gaza after Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, in which some 1,200 people were killed and 253 others were taken hostage.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in the Strip says more than 31,100 people have been killed in Gaza since then.

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