First dispatch of Gaza aid ‘within days’

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The first dispatch of humanitarian aid to besieged Gaza from Cyprus by sea is expected to depart the island within days, said a government spokesperson Tuesday.

“In the coming days, the first humanitarian aid mission from Cyprus to the Palestinian people will take place,” deputy Cypriot government Spokesperson Yiannis Antoniou told state radio.

He said Qatar is willing to support Cyprus’ initiative for the humanitarian aid corridor.

President Nicos Christodoulides paid an official visit to Qatar on Monday, where the Gulf state offered to assist medical and nursing personnel in staffing France’s floating hospital in the area off Gaza, said Antoniou.

He said Qatar would also help check the contents of the containers arriving with humanitarian aid at the Cypriot port of Larnaca and create port infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

The southern port of Larnaca will be used for humanitarian aid due to its proximity to the city’s international airport, as most countries will send aid by air.

Antoniou said the aid mission will either use a large ship that will visit a nearby Egyptian port or with smaller displacement ships.

Authorities expect the first aid for Gaza to arrive in Cyprus on Wednesday.

By Friday at the latest, experts from the Republic will travel to Doha to meet with officials to address practical issues related to the transportation of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“The important thing is that Qatar, due to its special relations with Hamas, is willing to take on the role of guarantor for the security of the content of the humanitarian aid to be transported to Gaza.”

The idea is to bolster humanitarian relief provided to the Gaza Strip by importing large volumes by ship rather than the limited deliveries by truck through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

Cyprus argues its proposal enhances the role of the European Union as it is the nearest member state – 370 km away — to the Middle East.

Supplies of water, electricity, fuel, medicine and food were cut off to the impoverished and densely populated territory in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attacks.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says relentless Israeli bombing since then has killed more than 15,000 people in the Palestinian territory, mainly civilians and many children.

Under Nicosia’s plan, aid would be collected, inspected, and stored in Cyprus and then sent to Gaza on vessels checked daily by a joint committee including Israel.

The vessels would be accompanied by warships to a designated spot identified on the coast of Gaza, from where it would be sent to a safe, neutral area.

Cyprus has also served as a transit hub for foreign nationals evacuated from Israel since the Hamas incursion on Israel that Israeli officials say killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.