Home Europe Cyprus-Gaza humanitarian corridor to open soon, von der Leyen says

Cyprus-Gaza humanitarian corridor to open soon, von der Leyen says

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A sea corridor to bring urgently needed humanitarian aid to Gaza from Cyprus will open in the coming days, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday from the Cypriot port of Larnaca.

“We are launching this Cyprus maritime corridor together, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States,” von der Leyen said after a visit to inspect facilities in Cyprus alongside Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides.

A test run could possibly take place over the weekend, Cypriot officials, granted anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations, told POLITICO. The trial run will see a vessel belonging to the Spanish charity Open Arms ferrying food aid collected by the U.S. charity World Central Kitchen.

The deliveries by sea “will be complex,” the EU, Cyprus, the U.S., Britain, the UAE and others said in a joint statement on Friday. “Our nations will continue to assess and adjust our efforts to ensure we deliver aid as effectively as possible,” they said.

The hope is that the aid can help alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where, according to the United Nations, the population is suffering from “catastrophic hunger” after more than five months of conflict. More than 30,000 people in Gaza have been killed since Israel launched its war against Hamas in response to the group’s terrorist attack that left about 1,200 people dead.

Critics have accused Israel of not letting enough food and medicine into Gaza to alleviate the suffering of the 2.2 million Palestinians who live there, a charge that Israeli leaders have consistently denied.

Cyprus is the closest EU member to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Cypriot leaders say their country is a natural point for collecting and inspecting shipments destined for Gaza.

“The Cyprus maritime corridor aims at scaling up aid by complementing other routes, that include the all-important Rafah crossing from Egypt and the airdrops from Jordan,” Christodoulides said, adding that “Cyprus bears a moral duty to do its utmost to assist in alleviating the humanitarian crisis.”

Getting aid into Gaza could prove problematic due to the enclave’s limited port infrastructure. In an effort to solve that issue, U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Thursday a plan to establish a temporary port in Gaza.

Though Biden has reiterated his support for Israel to respond to the Hamas attacks, Washington has grown increasingly frustrated with Israel. The decision to build a port in Gaza suggests that U.S. efforts to use rhetoric and personal appeals to persuade Israeli leaders to do more to help Palestinian civilians have largely failed.

Israel welcomed the opening of the maritime corridor but cautioned it would require security checks.

Palestinian officials have been less sanguine about the possibility of sea aid. The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday it is convinced that “Israel’s focus on giving approvals to open sea lanes and preventing the passage of aid overland through the crossings is aimed at implementing the occupation government’s plan to perpetuate the occupation, separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, and displace the Palestinian people.”

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