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Cyprus says second aid ship ready to leave for Gaza

By AFP

March 16, 2024 10:43 PM


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A second ship loaded with aid for Gaza could depart as early as Saturday, Cyprus said, as the first vessel returned from the war-ravaged territory after successfully delivering its cargo.

The Jennifer was set "to depart for Gaza today or tomorrow," foreign ministry spokesperson Theodoros Gotsis told state radio.

US charity World Central Kitchen said the Jennifer had been loaded with 240 tonnes of food but that rough weather made it hard to predict when it would set sail for Gaza or when the first vessel, the Open Arms, might make a return trip.

"Maritime weather reports show bad weather from Sunday until end of next week —- so exact timing of sailing for either boat to return to Gaza is not available at this time," the charity said in a statement.

The maritime aid corridor from Cyprus is meant to at least partly address stark shortages in Gaza after more than five months of war, as UN agencies warn of looming famine.

Earlier on Saturday, World Central Kitchen said its team had finished unloading food and other desperately needed supplies from the barge towed by Spanish aid vessel Open Arms, which left Cyprus on Tuesday in a trial run for the aid corridor.

"All cargo was offloaded and is being readied for distribution in Gaza," World Central Kitchen said in a statement, noting it included "almost 200 tonnes of food".

The cargo on the Jennifer includes "pallets of canned goods and bulk product -- including beans, carrots, canned tuna, chickpeas, canned corn, parboiled rice, flour, oil and salt," the charity said.

It also includes a forklift and a crane to assist with deliveries, it said.

The United Arab Emirates has sent "a special load of 120 (kilogrammes of) fresh dates," it added.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters that Open Arms "has begun to return" to Cyprus "and we are ready to send the second ship with humanitarian aid to Gaza."

The Spanish charity that owns the first vessel, also named Open Arms, said it would get back to Cyprus on Sunday and could participate in future aid deliveries.

  A first 'test' 

 With the humanitarian situation in Gaza increasingly dire, donors have pursued alternatives including airdrops and maritime shipments.

World Central Kitchen built a makeshift jetty southwest of Gaza City to receive Friday's shipment but US troops are on their way to build a larger pier.

The Israeli military said troops had secured the area around the jetty while the Open Arms shipment was unloaded. It said it had inspected the cargo before delivery.

World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres said on X that the first shipment was "a test" and that "we could bring thousands of tonnes each week."

The war in Gaza was triggered by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory campaign against Hamas has killed at least 31,553 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


AFP


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