Aid Ship Set to Sail from Cyprus to Gaza on New Corridor, Charity Says

Nicosia, Cyprus — A U.S. charity said it was loading aid for Gaza onto a boat in Cyprus, the first shipment to the war-ravaged territory along a maritime corridor the EU Commission hopes will open this weekend.

The Spanish-flagged vessel Open Arms docked three weeks ago in the port of Larnaca in Cyprus, the closest European Union country to the Gaza Strip.

“World Central Kitchen teams are in Cyprus loading pallets of humanitarian aid onto a boat headed to northern Gaza,” the charity said Friday in a statement.

“We have been preparing for weeks alongside our trusted NGO partner Open Arms for the opening of a maritime aid corridor that would allow us to scale our efforts in the region,” it added.

The charity said it plans to tow a barge loaded with provisions for the people of Gaza, where dire humanitarian conditions more than five months into the Israel-Hamas war have led some countries to airdrop food and other assistance.

“The endeavor to establish a humanitarian maritime corridor in Gaza is making progress, and our tugboat stands prepared to embark at a moment’s notice, laden with tons of food, water, and vital supplies for Palestinian civilians,” Open Arms said on social media platform X.

In Larnaca, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen had earlier expressed hope that a maritime corridor could open this Sunday, although details remained unclear.

She said a “pilot operation” would be launched on Friday, aided by the United Arab Emirates which secured “the first of many shipments of goods to the people of Gaza.”

There are no functioning ports in Gaza and officials did not say where the initial shipments would go, whether they would be subject to inspection by Israel, or who would distribute aid.

The Pentagon said Friday that a U.S. plan to establish a “temporary offshore maritime pier” in Gaza would take up to 60 days and would likely involve more than 1,000 American personnel.

The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel which resulted in about 1,160 deaths, mostly civilians, Israeli figures show.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with a relentless military offensive that the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said has killed at least 30,878 people, most of them women and children.

Israel, which withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but has maintained control over its airspace and territorial waters, said it “welcomes” the planned maritime corridor.

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