First ship carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza sets sail from Cyprus port.

A ship belonging to the Open Arms aid group with aid on a platform ferrying some 200 tonnes of rice and flour directly to Gaza, departs from the port from southern city of Larnaca, Cyprus, March 12, 2024.

Funded mostly by UAE, vessel towing barge filled with 200 tons flour, rice, protein intends to dock along Gaza coast at pier built by global food charity.

A ship taking almost 200 tons of food to the Gaza Strip left Cyprus early on Tuesday, according to the World Central Kitchen, in a pilot project to open a new sea route for aid to Palestinians amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

The charity ship Open Arms was seen sailing out of Larnaca port, towing a barge containing a load of flour, rice and protein, funded by the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus.

The ship will dock along the coast of northern Gaza, south of Gaza City, at a pier built by the WCK. The organization is responsible for getting the food to Gazan civilians, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel.

“Our goal is to establish a maritime highway of boats and barges stocked with millions of meals continuously headed towards Gaza,” WCK founder and celebrity chef José Andrés and chief executive officer Erin Gore said in a statement.

The charities intend to take aid directly to Gaza, which has been facing a mounting humanitarian crisis since the war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, which saw thousands of Hamas terrorists burst into Israel, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping another 253, mostly civilians, amid horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault.

With the lack of port infrastructure, WCK has said it would create a landing jetty in Gaza with material from destroyed buildings and rubble. It has said it had another 500 tons of aid amassed in Cyprus which would also be dispatched.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides offered the use of his country’s port in Larnaca months ago for a possible sea route for aid deliveries to Gaza, a 230-mile (370-kilometer) journey.

Cyprus invited authorities from Israel, the US and other European countries to join Cypriot agents in vetting all shipments so nothing could be used by Hamas against Israel. The offer received strong interest from the Americans, Europeans and others, and extended planning followed.

WCK, a global organization created by Andrés after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, has also partnered with Israeli restaurants and catering companies to deliver thousands of meals to Israeli civilians and soldiers in destinations including Sderot, Beersheba and the Golan Heights.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant voiced support for the plan on Sunday, saying the initiative would help speed along Israel’s goal of toppling the Hamas terror group.

“The process is designed to bring aid directly to the residents and thus continue the collapse of Hamas’s rule in Gaza,” Gallant said while touring the Gaza coast from a Dvora-class navy patrol boat.

Officials from the UN and various relief organizations say food and other humanitarian aid have been slow to get into the Strip and distributed, especially to northern Gaza, hampered by Israeli inspections, the location of crossings in the south of the Strip, and desperate Gazans, as well as looters, who pick trucks clean before they can reach the north part of the enclave. Israel has said considerably more aid has been made available than the UN and other agencies have been able to distribute.

Amid warnings of famine, the US, Jordan and others have stepped up efforts to get in aid by air and now sea, though UN officials insist ground deliveries remain the most efficient way to deliver relief.


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