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Finding a way into Gaza

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As the Israeli bombs were crashing down on Gaza’s trapped population in a war where there was no viable end game, the Cyprus government was trying to make its voice heard.

It certainly wasn’t wasting any opportunity at home to tell everyone the President was mixing with world leaders to open a maritime corridor to ship much-needed humanitarian aid to Gaza.

This was another instance where Cyprus was inflating its international importance to show it could be a player for stability in an unstable region.

According to government officials, there has been a positive reaction to the proposal that was entirely dreamed up in Nicosia without anybody actually asking for our help.

But maybe the government already knows this; if they propose to politicians and diplomats that they want to help get humanitarian aid to war-torn Gaza, nobody will want to be seen to be dismissing such a possibility.

With the situation so dire on the ground, with hundreds of children dying and thousands made homeless overnight, making a stand against humanitarian aid isn’t good optics.

It also goes without saying that it’s a logistics nightmare that involves multi-agencies and countries.

The UN has warmly responded to the initiative because it needs all the help it can get to buffer what it calls collective punishment of the Palestinians for Hamas’ crimes.

Israel has been warned that indiscriminate killing of civilians and targeting residential homes and hospitals is a war crime.

Okay, Cyprus will hand over Limassol port for the operation, but it is much more complicated than that, especially when Egypt’s Rafah crossing can be used.

Egypt borders Gaza, but getting the volume of required aid has proved problematic, falling below what is required.

There is also the thorny issue of ensuring the aid goes where needed most and does not fall off a truck.

Although the official line is that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “good idea” during a phone conversation with President Christodoulides, he probably suggested the theory was sound but execution improbable.

Christodoulides has kept himself busy contacting Arab and European leaders to get his initiative off the ground.

Diplomacy

Cyprus says its proximity to Gaza — about 370 kilometres — and good diplomatic relations with Arab neighbours and Israel make it an ideal staging post for aid.

Tents, food, water, and medicine would be shipped directly to Gaza and received by UN staff at the other end.

Ships would be vetted 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 militant group’s surprise October 7 attacks in Israel that left nearly 1,400 Israelis dead and 240 taken hostage.

For Nicosia, getting the Americans involved in its humanitarian gamble is crucial for gaining traction among other countries and placating Israel.

Pulling off such a bold move would earn extra points that would be useful in fending off Turkish aggression in the East Med.

Nevertheless, many experts believe time is running out for Gaza, with over 9,000 dead from Israeli bombing.

“We remain convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide,” the group of  UN independent experts said in a statement.

“We demand a humanitarian ceasefire to ensure that aid reaches those who need it the most.”

Even if there is a pause for humanitarian aid, sending it by ship is not the quickest route to the Palestinians.

Despite the reservations, Cyprus has tried positively contributing to an explosive situation threatening to destabilise the region.

Maybe that’s why the government has gone all out – it can’t fail – if it does, then it’s kudos for trying, and if successful, it wins political mileage.

Some could argue the government has gone ultra-ballistic in trying to get a seat at the Middle East peace table while lacking the same energy in resolving a similarly protracted legacy of invasion in its backyard.

If sending aid to Gaza is such a cinch, why is the UN finding it harder to appoint a Cyprus envoy?

And while the government has been breathing the rarified air of crisis politics, gangsters are killing each other on the island’s streets.

The smart money is on the police being sidelined, clueless and unable to stop another cycle of bloodletting as organised crime gets a free pass.