First ship carrying aid approaches Gaza Strip as Israel accused

First ship carrying aid approaches Gaza Strip as Israel accused

The Open Arms ship docked in the Cypriot port of Larnaca.

– | Afp | Getty Images

An aid ship approached the Gaza Strip coast on Friday with urgent supplies for the Palestinian people, as aid groups warn that thousands are on the brink of famine in the besieged enclave.

The ship – called Open Arms and operated by a Spanish charity of the same name – is transporting around 200 tonnes of supplies, including flour, rice and water, from the port of Larnaca in Cyprus. The ship was seen in video footage from the AFP news agency off the coast of the Gaza Strip on Friday morning, London time.

The detour comes as scores of trucks carrying food and relief supplies wait for permission to enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which borders Israel and Gaza, or the Rafah crossing, which borders Egypt and Gaza.

Israel agreed last year to work with Cyprus in establishing a sea aid corridor between the European Union member and the Gaza Strip. Earlier this month, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it welcomed the completion of the initiative, which will “enable the increase in humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip after security checks are carried out in accordance with Israeli standards.”

Juliette Touma, communications director for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), said the lack of humanitarian access had significantly worsened the situation in the northern Gaza Strip.

“A famine was detected here. We could have prevented this situation, it is a man-made situation,” she told CNBC.

Citizens line up for food cooked in large pots and distributed for free during the war in Rafah, Gaza, Dec. 28, 2023.

Ahmad Hasaballah | Getty Images

“The fact that parts of northern Gaza [are] “The brink of famine could have been prevented if more humanitarian supplies, particularly food, could have been able to reach the north on a regular basis.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said that as of March 12, 27 people had died of malnutrition and dehydration in hospitals in the north of the enclave, including 23 children.

According to Nebal Farsakh, spokesman for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, there was a 50% decrease in aid trucks to the Gaza Strip in February compared to the previous month.

“If there is an item that the Israeli authorities believe should not be entered, they will stop the entire truck and send it back without telling us the item to which access was denied,” Farsakh told CNBC from the West Bank.

Israeli authorities inspect all aid convoys entering the Rafah border crossing and the process is lengthy, Farsakh said. “Thousands of trucks are still waiting at the Rafah border crossing, but they need to be approved by the Israeli authorities.”

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid and food at the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza border.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said they would continue to expand efforts to enable humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip. “The IDF is making great efforts to facilitate the access of humanitarian assistance and is acting to enable the access of these supplies in a safe and coordinated manner,” the spokesperson told CNBC.

“A ship carrying humanitarian aid from the WCK (World Central Kitchen) organization, financed by the United Arab Emirates, set sail on Tuesday from the port of Larnaca in Cyprus towards the Gaza Strip. “This was done in coordination with Israeli security and civil authorities, in accordance with the instruction of the Israeli government and at the request of the US government,” the spokesman added.

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Blocking aid

Several humanitarian and non-governmental organizations have accused Israel of targeting aid convoys and workers at the Rafah border crossing.

“On three separate occasions our convoys were hit either on their way to or from the north. And in the three separate incidents, the Israeli army was responsible. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to get to the north,” UNRWA Touma said.

An Israeli soldier stands next to an Egyptian truck carrying humanitarian aid on the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the southern Gaza Strip on Jan. 22, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Menahem Kahana AFP | Getty Images

Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of UNRWA, said this week

The Israeli army says scissors have a “dual use” and are used as weapons by Hamas.

Earlier this month, Refugees International released a report alleging that Israel is obstructing the entry of life-saving aid into the Gaza Strip.

Jesse Marks of the U.S.-based humanitarian organization told CNBC that while its report was detailed, “it confirms what most humanitarian and U.N. actors on the ground know, which is that Israeli behavior continually hinders aid organizations in Gaza.” “Blocked legitimate relief efforts moving forward.”

Global relief efforts

Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip followed an Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas in southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people and took more than 240 hostage.

Israel’s subsequent bombing of the enclave and the lack of aid to the region have led to growing calls for the humanitarian crisis to worsen. This has prompted countries and organizations around the world to increase efforts to bring food to Gaza by both air and sea.

The United States and Jordan have conducted humanitarian airdrops despite criticism from aid groups who called them “ineffective” due to Israel’s land blockade.

This image taken from Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip shows a military aircraft dropping humanitarian aid over the Palestinian territory on March 12, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

Menahem Kahana AFP | Getty Images

Morocco also sent 40 tons of humanitarian aid through Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport to find new aid routes to the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Program on Tuesday used a new overland route to deliver six trucks of food directly to northern Gaza for the first time since February 20.

The charity Open Arms, which works with chef José Andrés’ organization World Central Kitchen, said it was working to create a “vital entry route” for food and supplies into the Gaza Strip.

“Although this mission is very complex, it is undeniably necessary. Our ship, the Open Arms, is stocked with tons of food and water, and our dedicated crew is ready to help the most vulnerable,” the charity said in a press release.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 14: Celebrity chef Jose Andres (center) meets with Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) (L) and Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) for an interview following a meeting about providing humanitarian assistance for Gaza the US Capitol on March 14, 2024 in Washington, DC. World Central Kitchen founder Andres has been working with the United States and Israel for weeks to develop a plan to deliver aid to Gaza by sea.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

UNRWA’s Touma said that while these international efforts were welcome, “there are efficient, simpler, cheaper, safer and reliable ways to provide assistance to the people of Gaza.” “And by road, by increasing the number of trucks provided by the Israeli authorities to enter Gaza by road.”

While delivering aid by land remains a challenge, the United States has announced that a temporary pier will be built off the coast of Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that once construction is complete, the pier “will enable the distribution of up to 2 million meals per day, as well as medicine and water.”

However, he stressed that this is not a replacement for land delivery and that “Israel must open and keep open as many access points as possible.”

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2024-03-15 11:58:56