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Ship carrying 200 tons of aid approaches Gaza via new Mediterranean route

Israel’s refusal to allow substantial aid into the Gaza Strip has left its population facing famine and life-threatening medical supply shortages.

A ship carrying 200 tons of aid is approaching the coast of Gaza, inaugurating a new sea route from Cyprus that was intended to bring more assistance to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the enclave five months into the war between Israel and Hamas.

The ship, manned by the Spanish aid group Open Arms, left Cyprus on Tuesday towing a barge laden with food sent by World Central Kitchen, the charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés. It could be seen off Gaza’s coast on Friday morning.

Israel has been under increasing pressure to allow more aid into Gaza after five months of war between Israel and Hamas. The US has joined other countries in airdropping supplies to the isolated region of northern Gaza and has announced separate plans to construct a pier to get aid in.

Aid groups said the airdrops and sea shipments are far less efficient ways of delivering the massive quantity of aid needed in Gaza. Instead, the groups have called on Israel to guarantee safe corridors for truck convoys after land deliveries became nearly impossible because of military restrictions, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of order after the Hamas-run police force largely vanished from the streets.

The daily number of supply trucks entering Gaza since the war began has been far below the 500 that entered before Hamas fighters massacred more than 1,000 people in southern Israel on 7 October.

Earlier in the week, Israel allowed six aid trucks to enter directly into the north, a step aid groups have long called for.

Help on the way

World Central Kitchen operates 65 kitchens across Gaza from where it has served 32 million meals since the war started, the group said. The aid includes rice, flour, lentils, beans, tuna and canned meat, according to World Central Kitchen spokesperson Linda Roth.

It plans to distribute the food in the north, the largely devastated target of Israel’s initial offensive in Gaza, which has been mostly cut off by Israeli forces since October. Up to 300,000 Palestinians are believed to have remained there despite Israeli evacuation orders, with many reduced to eating animal feed in recent weeks.

A second vessel being loaded with even more aid will head to Gaza once the aid on the first ship is offloaded and distributed, Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos said. He declined to specify when the second vessel would leave, saying it depends in part on whether the Open Arms delivery goes smoothly.

Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians and driven most of the enclave’s 2.3 million people from their homes. According to the UN, a quarter of Gaza’s population is starving.

The ship was spotted from the coast just hours after the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza accused Israeli forces of launching an attack near an aid distribution point in northern Gaza, killing 20 people and wounding 155 others. The Israeli military said those reports are false, adding it was assessing the event “with the thoroughness that it deserves.”

The health ministry said a group waiting for aid near the Kuwaiti roundabout was hit by Israeli shelling late Thursday.

Bloodshed surrounding an aid convoy in northern Gaza on February 29 killed 118 Palestinians. Witnesses and hospital officials said many of the casualties were from bullet wounds; the Israeli military said some of its forces fired at people in the crowd who were advancing toward them, and that many of the casualties were caused by a stampede over the food and people being run over by the aid trucks.

It was after that incident that plans for the sea route took shape, and the US and other countries joined Jordan in dropping aid into the north of Gaza by plane.

But people in northern Gaza say the airdrops are insufficient given the scale and urgency of need.

Many can’t access the aid because people are fighting over it, said Suwar Baroud, 24, who was displaced by the fighting and is now in Gaza City. Some people hoard it and sell it in the market, she said.

One recent airdrop that malfunctioned plummeted from the sky and killed five people.

Another drop landed in a sewage and garbage dump, said Riham Abu al-Bid, 27. Men ran in but were unable to retrieve anything, she said.

“I wish these airdrops never happened and that our dignity and freedom would be taken into consideration, so we can get our sustenance in a dignified way and not in a manner that is so humiliating,” she said.

Source: euronews

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