Gallant says sea corridor plan for Gaza aid will help bring Hamas down

Defense minister touts internationally backed route as key to making sure aid gets to civilians and not terror group as Spanish ship in Cyprus loaded with food readies pilot voyage

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tours the coast of the Gaza Strip, March 10, 2024. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tours the coast of the Gaza Strip, March 10, 2024. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant backed an international plan to provide aid to Gaza via a temporary seaport, saying the initiative would help speed along Israel’s goal of toppling the Hamas terror group.

His comments came as the US military said a vessel had been dispatched to the region with equipment to construct a dock meant to bolster plans to begin delivering aid to Gaza by sea, as a boat filled with aid idled off the coast of Cyprus.

“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, picking trucks clean before they can reach the north part of the enclave.

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.

Gallant said aid deliveries by sea would help “ensure that supplies reach here for those who need them and not for those who don’t.”

“We will bring the aid through a maritime route that is coordinated with the US on the security and humanitarian side, with the assistance of the UAE on the civil side, and appropriate inspection in Cyprus, and we will bring goods imported by international organizations with American assistance,” he said.

The US Central Command said Sunday that a first US Army vessel, the General Frank S. Besson, left a base in Virginia on Saturday and was on its way to the Eastern Mediterranean with construction equipment, after US President Joe Biden announced plans to increase aid deliveries to the area by sea.

The new push for aid came as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was set to begin Monday in much of the world after officials in Saudi Arabia saw the crescent moon. Hopes for a new temporary ceasefire by Ramadan faded days ago with negotiations apparently stalled.

US officials said that it would likely be weeks before the pier is operational. Construction is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars and take up to 60 days, The New York Times reported.

Gaza’s waters are also considered too shallow for the large barges that would be needed to ship in the cargo.

US Army Vessel General Frank S. Besson prepares to depart Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, March 9, 2024, en route to the Eastern Mediterranean. (US Central Command via AP)

International aid groups do not appear to be planning to wait for the construction of the US dock to try out the sea route.

A ship belonging to Spanish aid group Open Arms and carrying 200 tons of food aid was expected to make a pilot voyage to test the corridor “as soon as possible” but not Sunday, said spokesperson Linda Roth with partner organization World Central Kitchen, a charity that delivers food to areas that suffered natural disasters.

The ship in Cyprus is expected to take two to three days to arrive at an undisclosed location in Gaza.

A member of the charity said on X that once the ship’s barge reaches Gaza, aid would be offloaded by a crane, placed on trucks and driven to northern Gaza, which was the first focus of Israel’s military offensive.

The sea corridor is backed by the European Union together with the United States, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. The European Commission has said that UN agencies and the Red Cross will play a role.

Parachutes drop supplies into the northern Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, March 10, 2024. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

The US announced the plan for the sea route and dock following an incident in northern Gaza in which over 100 Palestinians were killed while trying to access an aid truck. It is unclear how many of the casualties died because of a stampede or Israeli fire.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, at least 31,045 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. These numbers cannot be independently verified, and the ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says that women and children make up two-thirds of the dead. Israel says it has killed over 13,000 Hamas operatives since the beginning of the war.

War broke out on October 7 after Hamas terrorists killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 hostages. Israel’s air and ground offensive has devastated large parts of Gaza and displaced about 80 percent of the population of 2.3 million.

Most Popular
read more: