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Situation in Gaza ‘desperate’, as WCK suspends relief

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Devastated by the death of seven of its aid workers in Gaza, the international relief charity, World Central Kitchen, said it was suspending its operations, prompting Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides to say that the maritime aid corridor will remain open.

In an announcement on Tuesday, WCK said it was “devastated to confirm seven members of our team have been killed in an IDF strike in Gaza.

“The WCK team was traveling in a deconflicted zone in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and a soft skin vehicle.

“Despite coordinating movements with the IDF, the convoy was hit as it was leaving the Deir al-Balah warehouse, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tons of humanitarian food aid brought to Gaza on the maritime route.

“This is not only an attack against WCK, this is an attack on humanitarian organisations showing up in the most dire of situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable,” said World Central Kitchen CEO Erin Gore.

The seven killed are from Australia, Poland, United Kingdom, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, and Palestine.

In its announcement, WCK quoted the IDF as saying it was “carrying out an in-depth examination at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.”

World Central Kitchen said it is pausing its operations immediately in the region.

“We will be making decisions about the future of our work soon.”

Asked if the suspension of the aid relief was a setback for the Cypriot ‘Amaltheia’ of a maritime aid corridor, President Nikos Christodoulides said, “the humanitarian needs are there and the initiative will continue.

“We are also in contact with the United States, as it is very well-known, they are preparing the pier in Gaza. I think, before the end of the month, we will be in a position to have more humanitarian assistance sent to Gaza.

Need is there

“We have this unfortunate incident. I express the condolences of the Republic of Cyprus. But the ‘Amaltheia’ initiative will continue as a humanitarian need is there.

Speaking after a visit with Christodoulides to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Larnaca, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said, “Cyprus is Europe’s primary gateway to the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It is also the departure point for the critical ‘Amaltheia’ initiative.”

“The situation on the ground remains desperate. Too many innocent people have died. Just this morning we woke up to the tragic news of more aid workers killed. We must use all our resources to get answers, to bring in more relief. Humanitarian organisations like World Central Kitchen (WCK) must be protected,” Metsola said.

The EP president, on a tour of EU state to encourage people to vote in the upcoming European elections from June 6 to 9, said, “our approach is to get more help into Gaza, save innocent lives, and advance the need for a two-state solution that gives Palestinians a true perspective while giving Israel security.

“The European Parliament will keep pushing for a cease fire, as we have been doing for months. We will keep seeking the return of the remaining hostages. We will continue to emphasise that there can be no prospect of peace, security, stability and prosperity for Gaza as long as Hamas operates with impunity,” she added.

“We will continue to advocate for a settlement that empowers peaceful, legitimate Palestinian leadership and one that ensures lasting stability in the region.”

Asked if more decisive actions were needed to protect humanitarian aid workers and people on the ground, Metsola said, “absolutely. We will convene as a plenary in the next few days.

“The European Parliament has, since the very beginning of the conflict, not shied away from calling for a cease fire. To call for the return of all hostages with great concern for the number of innocent lives that have been lost.

Grave concern

“And today’s latest tragedy being an addition to the grave concern that we continue to shine a spotlight on. What happened [in Gaza] is just the last instalment of yet another tragedy that can only increase as the days go by. The situation is extremely desperate.”

Christodoulides described World Central as “one of our crucial partners in sending much needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza. I express our sincere condolences to the WCK and the countries which have lost their citizens, and we call for an immediate and complete investigation of this incident.”

“At the recent European Council we finally adopted conclusions on the Middle East, because I truly believe that, as a Union, we should not be mere observers to this crisis. We have a responsibility to act and we should be an integral part of initiatives, together with our partners, to put an end to the war and start a political process for a lasting solution, based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

“Humanitarian aid workers must have full protection in conducting their essential efforts in providing food and humanitarian assistance. International Humanitarian Law is crystal clear as regards respecting and protecting humanitarian aid workers.”

The Cypriot president said the Amaltheia initiative is not a substitute to other routes, such as the land routes and the air drops.

“It is complementary, with the sole purpose of increasing the provision of assistance by sea, and to mutually reinforce all pathways, for sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need.

“We have already dispatched the first two shipments with hundreds of tons of aid, directly to Gaza, through close partnership with the UAE. We also started working on the funding modalities of the maritime corridor by activating the ‘Amalthea Fund’.”

He also praised the US government’s decision to establish a maritime pier off the coast of Gaza, “which should be operational very soon, and will allow for a significantly scaled-up flow of assistance.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken began his remarks at a press conference in France by the seven World Central Kitchen aid workers as ‘heroes’.

He called for a “thorough and impartial” investigation and marked how these deaths join a “record number” of humanitarian workers killed in the conflict.

Blinken said the seven slain WCK aid workers represented “the best of what humanity has to offer.”