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Aid ship to leave Cyprus for Gaza within 24 hours, Christodoulides says

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A ship carrying aid for Gaza will leave Cyprus in the next 24 hours on a trial run along a new humanitarian sea corridor, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said late Saturday.

A vessel belonging to the Spanish charity Open Arms will be ferrying food aid collected by the U.S. charity World Central Kitchen, as the EU and its partners attempt to open up a new avenue for getting urgently needed assistance to the besieged Gaza Strip.

“The ship will leave Larnaca in the next 24 hours. I cannot say the specific time for security reasons,” Christodoulides told reporters late Saturday.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday visited the Cypriot port of Larnaca, the starting point of the corridor, and said that the operation might start as early as this weekend.

The Open Arms vessel “stands prepared to embark at a moment’s notice, laden with tons of food, water, and vital supplies for Palestinian civilians,” the charity said on X. “What initially appeared as an insurmountable challenge is now on the verge of realization.”

Cyprus, which is the closest EU member to Israel and the Palestinian territories, first presented the idea of the sea corridor last year. In December, it was announced that a ship with aid had left for Gaza but eventually had to offload aid for Gaza in neighboring Egypt.

Christodoulides didn’t specify where the ship will anchor to unload the aid. The hope is that the supplies can help alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where the United Nations says the population is suffering from “catastrophic hunger” after more than five months of conflict.

Analysts said that, even if this pilot run is successful, the sea corridor won’t become operational until a planned temporary dock is constructed by the U.S. The American military estimates that will take two months.

“This idea of the sea corridor has been brewing for months,” said Harry Tzimitras, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo Cyprus Center. “We had announcements before that the corridor is beginning, so we have to be always careful in this part of the world, until something actually starts.”

But “the U.S. construction is a serious step bringing in a coordinated action which was long overdue, but now at least is happening,” he added.

“This time most — if not all — of the actors seem to be in principle cooperating on this. So the chances of it materializing are much higher,” Tzimitras said. “Israel realized that it cannot push it back any longer, because the international public opinion is alerted to the Gaza catastrophe,” he said.

Pentagon spokesperson Patrick Ryder said on Friday that constructing temporary pier may require up to 60 days and the contribution of more than 1,000 American troops.

“While temporary solutions often tend to last longer than anticipated, the current U.S. proposal is not likely to be a long-term solution to Palestinian needs,” said Nimrod Goren, co-founder of Diplomeds, the Council for Mediterranean Diplomacy, but added that it provides an opportunity to revisit existing plans and alternatives for a Gaza seaport.

“Biden’s statement provides some cause for optimism that once the dust settles, the war ends, and domestic political transitions take place in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, concepts of peace, regional cooperation, intra-regional connectivity, and mutual economic benefit may once again take center stage,”  Goren said.

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