UAE-funded aid ship sets sail for north Gaza as famine grips

UAE-funded aid ship sets sail for north Gaza as famine grips
The UAE-funded ship is part of a pilot project aimed at creating a sea corridor to ensure greater flows of aid are delivered to Gaza, in particular the north.
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The ship, organised by World Central Kitchen and Open Arms, set sail from Cyprus for Gaza on Tuesday [Photo by IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU/AFP via Getty Images]

An aid ship, mostly funded by the UAE, has set sail from Cyprus to Gaza in a bid to deliver humanitarian aid to the enclave amid starvation in the north of the enclave due to Israel's siege and military offensive.

The ship, which is part of a pilot project for the opening of a humanitarian sea corridor to Gaza, holds 200 tonnes of aid.

Alongside UAE funding, the shipment has been organised by US charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) and Spanish charity Open Arms.

The aid includes rice, flour, legumes, canned vegetables and protein, according to WCK.

The journey to Gaza takes about 15 hours but a heavy tow barge could make the trip considerably longer, possibly up to two days. Cyprus is just over 200 miles (320 km) north-west of Gaza.

The US military said its vessel, the General Frank S. Besson, was also on route to provide humanitarian relief to Gaza by sea.

The boat is part of plans to create a sea corridor under the Amalthea Initiative, a five stage plan initially proposed by Cyprus, which would see food, medical supplies and shelter transported from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to Gaza.

The initiative is backed by the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, as well as the EU.

According to WCK, a further 500 tonnes of aid is in Cyprus waiting to be sent to Gaza as part of the initiative.

The ship will dock on northern Gaza's coast at a pier built by WCK, with the Israeli army set to vet the aid destined to the enclave in Cyprus, The Times of Israel reported.

North Gaza is the epicentre of a famine engulfing the enclave after 5-months of Israeli bombardment and siege which has killed at least 31,184 people, mostly women and children, with a further 72,889 injured.

At least 25 people have reportedly starved to death in the northern part of the enclave, which is currently cut off from the rest of Gaza by the Israeli-controlled 'Netzarim corridor'.

Israeli forces have prevented the entrance of numerous convoys into the area and have also attacked and killed Palestinians clambering for aid.

On Tuesday, Palestinian health officials reported that nine Palestinians were killed, and dozens wounded by Israeli gunfire when crowds were awaiting aid trucks at the Kuwait Square in Gaza City.

The incident follows the 'Flour Massacre' in late February, when Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinians attempting to get aid, with at least 112 being killed in the incident.

"Bombing gatherings of hungry people has become a daily routine practiced by the occupation and seen by the international community on screens," Ashraf Al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Gaza health ministry said on Tuesday.

"Hunger will claim the lives of all residents in northern Gaza. Aid is very scarce. The price of a meal could mean certain death. Help the people of the north. Don't leave them prey to hunger, bombing, and disease."

(Reuters contributed to this report)