Friday, May 24, 2024

First aid delivery by sea reaches Gaza

(BBC News) The first maritime humanitarian aid shipment to Gaza has been unloaded onto the shore.

The US charity behind the mission, World Central Kitchen (WCK), is co-operating with the United Arab Emirates.

The shipment contained 200 tonnes of food for Gaza, which the UN says is on the brink of famine.

Aid agencies have accused Israel of impeding aid deliveries, a charge denied by Israeli officials.

They say Israel is allowing aid through two crossings in the south and has blamed aid agencies for logistical failures.

Saturday’s shipment arrived aboard Spanish charity ship Open Arms. Its cargo includes beans, carrots, canned tuna, chickpeas, canned corn, parboiled rice, flour, oil, salt, and pallets of dates, which hold spiritual significance during Ramadan.

It had been checked by Israeli officials at a port in Cyprus.

It marks the start of a trial to see if the sea route would be more effective than air and land deliveries.

Aid agencies have repeatedly warned that no method of relief is as effective as delivery by land, but they say Israeli restrictions mean a fraction of what is needed is getting in.

In a statement, WCK said: “All cargo was offloaded and is being readied for distribution in Gaza.”

Teams worked through the night to get the aid onto dry land.

Gaza has no functioning port, so a makeshift jetty stemming from the shoreline was built by WCK’s team using rubble from destroyed buildings.

However, there are few details on how the aid distribution will work, with UN relief agencies having described huge obstacles to getting relief supplies to those in need.

Earlier, WCK’s founder, celebrity chef José Andrés, wrote on X that all the food aid from the barge had been loaded into 12 lorries.

“We did it!” he wrote, adding that this was a test to see if they could bring even more aid in the next shipment – up to “thousands of tons a week.”

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said troops had been deployed to secure the shoreline.

This delivery has been highly anticipated since the ship set off from the port of Larnaca on Tuesday.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides told journalists: “The first ship has started its return to Cyprus, and we are ready to dispatch the second ship.”

The second cargo vessel is at Larnaca’s port awaiting a signal to sail with 240 tons of aid including bulk products.

WCK said in addition it would carry two forklifts and a crane to help with future maritime deliveries to Gaza.

If this sea mission is deemed a success, other aid ships will likely follow as part of an international effort to get more aid into Gaza. The ships would use a newly opened sea route to travel directly to the region.

Separately, the US is planning to build its own floating dock off the coast to boost sea deliveries. The White House says it could see two million meals a day enter Gaza, but while a military ship is en route with equipment on board to build the dock, questions remain about the logistics of the plan.

The World Food Programme had to temporarily pause its land deliveries after convoys came under gunfire and looting. And an airdrop turned deadly last week when five people were reportedly killed when a parachute failed and they were hit by the aid package.


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