Ship with Gaza aid departs Cyprus for first time since killing of WCK aid workers

Small cargo vessel leaves Larnaca with goods donated by the United Arab Emirates; Britain assisting in construction of American aid pier, may aid in deliveries as well

File: The barge Jennifer, part of a three ship flotilla carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, sails next to the French frigate Courbet as the flotilla departs the port of Larnaca in Cyprus on March 30, 2024. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP)
File: The barge Jennifer, part of a three ship flotilla carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, sails next to the French frigate Courbet as the flotilla departs the port of Larnaca in Cyprus on March 30, 2024. (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP)

Aid shipments to Gaza from Cyprus resumed late on Friday, a Cypriot source said, with a ship carrying food to the besieged Palestinian enclave after a pause following Israel’s accidental killing of seven aid workers.

The World Central Kitchen NGO paused aid to review its activity in the territory after the early April attack, halting the direct shipments into Gaza from Cyprus.

A small cargo vessel left the port of Larnaca on Friday night with aid donated by the United Arab Emirates, a Cypriot source said.

Israel’s six-month-old war against Hamas in Gaza, in response to terror group Hamas’s attack on the country, has caused a humanitarian disaster for the enclave’s more than 2 million inhabitants.

Limited shipments of aid from Cyprus stopped after Israel killed the seven WCK workers, amid fears for aid workers’ safety. The Israeli military dismissed two officers and formally reprimanded senior commanders over the bombing, which it called a tragic mistake.

WCK has so far not resumed its operations.

After international pressure and warnings of impending famine, Israel massively stepped up aid efforts to the territory in recent weeks, Jerusalem and Washington have said.

The United States has started construction of a floating jetty on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast that will enable aid deliveries pre-screened in Cyprus with Israeli oversight.

A United Kingdom defense source told The Associated Press Saturday that a British ship to house hundreds of US army personnel building the jetty had also set sail from Cyprus.

Royal Navy support ship “Cardigan Bay” will help support the international effort to construct the temporary floating pier, which is set to be completed early May, according to the Pentagon.

The pier will initially facilitate the delivery of 90 truckloads of international aid a day into Gaza, rising to up to 150 truckloads once fully operational, according to US estimates.

A truck carrying humanitarian aid arrives for processing at the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza on April 15, 2024. (AFP)

The aid will be pre-screened in Cyprus and delivered directly to Gaza via the pier off the coast or via Ashdod Port, which Israel has said it will open.

“It is critical we establish more routes for vital humanitarian aid to reach the people of Gaza and the UK continues to take a leading role in the delivery of support,” UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said.

The United Nations insists that an increase in the flow of humanitarian aid by land is needed to help a starving population facing shortages of medical supplies.

British troops may also be tasked with delivering aid to Gaza from the offshore pier, the BBC reported Saturday. UK government officials declined to comment on the report.

According to the BBC, the British government is considering deploying troops to drive the trucks that will carry aid from the pier along a floating causeway to the shore. No decision has been made and the proposal hasn’t yet reached UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the BBC reported, citing unidentified government sources.

The report comes after a senior US military official said on Thursday that there would be no American “boots on the ground” and another nation would provide the personnel to drive the delivery trucks to the shore. The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet made public, declined to identify the third party.

The UK Hydrographic Office has also shared analysis of the Gaza shoreline with the US to aid in the construction of the pier.

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