Cyprus hopes to send aid directly to Gaza by sea

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Nicosia said its initiative to create a sea corridor for the steady flow of humanitarian assistance from Cyprus to Gaza involves aid-laden ships sailing directly to the enclave, where United Nations staff would receive it for distribution.

Government spokesman Constantinos Letymbiotis said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “saw the initiative in a positive light” during a long telephone conversation Tuesday evening with President Nikos Christodoulides.

Letymbiotis said the “United Nations fully supports and will assist in any way possible to enable food and essentials to be received in Gaza.”

Cyprus is still discussing with fellow European Union member countries and Arab states the logistical details of its plan to ferry aid from Limassol to Gaza once conditions on the ground permit it.

Officials say there is a positive response, and the initiative is gaining traction.

Ships would be vetted at the point of departure at Limassol to ensure that nothing would be transported that could be weaponised by Hamas to use against Israel.

Gaza’s humanitarian needs have escalated since the Israel-Hamas war erupted following the Palestinian militant group’s surprise October 7 attacks in Israel that left nearly 1,400 Israelis dead and at least 240 people taken hostage.

Israel retaliated with a military operation that has so far left over 8,000 Palestinians dead.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said that UN officials “are actively working so that more humanitarian assistance can be delivered to the population of Gaza.”

Lacroix said it’s up to the parties to decide the best way to ensure the aid reaches those who need it most.

“But I can assure you that the determination to work actively in that direction is there from the UN,” Lacroix said after talks with Christodoulides Nicosia on Wednesday.

The visiting UN official said the Cypriot initiative is “highly appreciated” by the world body.

Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos also raised the issue of the humanitarian corridor among EU counterparts in Berlin on Thursday.

“We are making it a priority to make the creation of this maritime humanitarian corridor possible at the soonest,” said Letymbiotis.