Cyprus working with European, Mideast states on sea corridor to ship aid to Gaza

Netanyahu ‘wasn’t opposed’ to Nicosia’s proposal, which would allow continuous flow of goods from Limassol port to besieged enclave when ‘humanitarian pauses’ in fighting allow it

File: This picture taken on May 24, 2022, shows an aerial view of the port of Cyprus' southwestern city of Limassol. (Roy Issa/AFP)
File: This picture taken on May 24, 2022, shows an aerial view of the port of Cyprus' southwestern city of Limassol. (Roy Issa/AFP)

Cyprus is working with partners in the European Union and the Middle East on the logistics of establishing a sea corridor to deliver a stream of vital humanitarian aid to Gaza from the island’s main port of Limassol once the situation in the Israel-Hamas war permits it, authorities said Tuesday.

A senior Cypriot government official — who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to publicly discuss details of the proposal — said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “wasn’t opposed” to the idea pitched by Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides last week.

Gaza’s humanitarian needs have vastly escalated since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7, when Hamas terrorists broke through the Gaza border, rampaging through southern communities and a desert music festival, massacring at least 1,400 people, most of them civilians. At least 245 civilians and soldiers were kidnapped that day, of whom four have been released by Hamas and one has been rescued by security forces.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry says over 8,500 Gazans have been killed in Israel’s offensive aimed at destroying the terror group. The figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza and Israel, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. Israel says it killed some 1,500 Hamas terrorists inside Israel on and after October 7.

The underlying premise of Cyprus’s proposal is to have a constant flow of large quantities of assistance delivered by sea during what the officials called “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting, to enable aid to reach those in need.

“We want to be ready to start sending aid once a window of opportunity opens,” he said.

File: A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid enters the Gaza Strip from Egypt via the Rafah border crossing on October 21, 2023. (Eyad Baba/AFP)

The official said the proposal has the support of many fellow EU member states, including Ireland, Spain, France and the Netherlands, as well as Arab nations such as Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan. The US government and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have also been apprised of the proposal.

Christodoulides was scheduled to speak to Netanyahu by phone on Tuesday.

“Everyone recognizes the need for this corridor and that it is feasible,” the official said, adding that the need for even larger quantities of aid such as medical supplies, food and clothing will be more pressing as the Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza has been stepped up.

According to the official, Israel’s paramount concern is to ensure the aid doesn’t contain anything that Hamas could weaponize. Israel also wants to make sure the content of containers is vetted before leaving Limassol.

Cyprus is also in contact with the Palestinian authorities to determine which aid is needed the most.

The official said they are ironing out logistical details, including the key question of where the ships will dock to offload aid and which international agencies in Gaza will be tasked with distributing it. Another issue is whether the supplies will be shipped by commercial or naval vessels.

The Mediterranean country is open to all suggestions on how to handle aid delivery effectively, whether offloading the supplies either directly in Gaza or for them to be sent to either Israel or Egypt and then to the enclave.

“Cyprus is offering the geographical location, the infrastructure and the political will for this proposal to proceed,” the official said.

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