A ship carrying 200 tons of food is heading to Gaza. What to know.


A ship carrying nearly 200 tons of food left Cyprus on Tuesday to deliver desperately needed aid to the Gaza Strip, where concerns are mounting over the worsening humanitarian situation.

The journey, if successful, would mark the first shipment of aid into Gaza via a new maritime route — but that represents only a fraction of the amount of aid needed after five months of a devastating war that has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

  • The mission is being undertaken by World Central Kitchen, the aid organization founded by celebrity chef José Andrés.
  • The journey from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Gaza is expected to take several days, the group said.
  • The delivery is part of a maritime corridor announced by the United States and allies last week.
  • In a parallel effort, a U.S. Army ship left for Gaza over the weekend with equipment to build a temporary pier to allow further aid into Gaza, but the construction is expected to take weeks.

The shipment is destined for northern Gaza, World Central Kitchen said, adding that it contains food such as rice, flour, legumes, canned vegetables and proteins.

“We have served more than 35 million meals in Gaza & the maritime corridor will allow us to provide millions more,” the group said.

The United Nations and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly warned of the risk of famine in Gaza, where almost the entire population is dependent on food aid, and Gaza health officials said last week that at least 20 people have died of malnutrition and dehydration.

This is the first aid delivery under a new maritime route that was announced by the United States, European Commission, United Arab Emirates, Cyprus and Britain last week.

“The departure of the first ship is a sign of hope,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Tuesday. “We will work hard together for many more ships to follow.”

Under this plan, aid will be routed through Cyprus, where Israel — which has welcomed the maritime corridor — will inspect shipments before they are allowed to continue to Gaza, as The Washington Post reported last week.

Exactly how the aid will enter Gaza remains unclear; Israel controls Gaza’s coastline and all but one land crossing into the enclave. World Central Kitchen said Tuesday that it is constructing a jetty to offload the aid before loading it onto trucks. The Israel Defense Forces and COGAT, the wing of Israel’s Defense Ministry that oversees Palestinian civil affairs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a briefing on March 8, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said the U.S. would establish a temporary pier to deliver aid to Gazans. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Susan Walsh/AP/The Washington Post)

The maritime corridor was announced the day after President Biden said the United States would construct a temporary port and pier off the coast of Gaza.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said it will take up to 60 days and around 1,000 U.S. troops to build the offshore pier and causeway which, once complete, could allow up to 2 million meals to be delivered every day.

How the U.S. military will use a floating pier to deliver Gaza aid

Israel announced a “complete siege” of Gaza in the early days of the war, following Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7 that killed hundreds of people.

Since Israel’s invasion of Gaza, some aid has entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt — the only crossing into Gaza not under Israeli control — but deliveries remain far below prewar levels.

Israel opened a second border crossing at Kerem Shalom in December, but many items are restricted or denied, and the amount of aid has been impacted by Israeli protesters blocking the crossing.

Israel denies limiting aid into Gaza and has blamed the United Nations for failing to distribute it — a claim the United Nations vehemently denies.

The U.N. humanitarian agency said that by the end of February, a quarter of the more than 2 million people living in Gaza were “one step away from famine,” with “practically the entire population of Gaza left to rely on woefully inadequate humanitarian food assistance to survive.”

“Unfortunately, as grim as the picture we see today, there is every possibility for further deterioration,” it added.

How Israel’s restrictions on aid put Gaza on the brink of famine

Several nations, including the United States, have started dropping aid into Gaza by air.

But experts have warned that airdrops are an expensive and inefficient way of delivering aid, and U.N. and humanitarian groups have urged further efforts to bring more aid in by land.

And even aid deliveries have turned deadly: On Feb. 29, more than 100 people were killed and hundreds others injured at an aid convoy in northern Gaza, according to Gazan health officials. Palestinian officials, doctors and eyewitnesses blame the deaths on Israeli gunfire, while Israeli officials blame a stampede.

Five Palestinians were killed in an airdrop on 8 March when an apparent parachute malfunction caused a loaded crate to fall on some people, a civil defense spokesman in Gaza said.

Kendra Nichols, Cate Brown and Claire Parker contributed to this report.


Source Link