First shipment of aid to US-built floating pier in Gaza leaves Cyprus

A shipment of humanitarian aid has left a port in Cyprus and is on its way to the US-built pier in Gaza, the first delivery to the newly built ramp, Cyprus’s foreign minister said on Thursday.

The US vessel, loaded with much-needed humanitarian assistance, departed from the Larnaca port with the aim of transferring as much aid to Gaza as possible through the maritime corridor, said foreign minister Constantinos Kombos.

The trip comes some two months after US President Joe Biden gave the order to build the large floating platform several miles off the Gaza coast that will be the launching pad for deliveries since not enough aid was getting in through land crossings, which require stringent checks by Israel, and by air drops.

The relief is desperately needed, with the United Nations saying people in Gaza are on the brink of famine and as Israeli troops ordered the evacuation of 100,000 Palestinians from Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

Cyprus Israel Plestinians
A truck carrying food aid for Gaza to loading on the container ship Sagamore where on the dock at Larnaca port, Cyprus (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

The closure of the Rafah crossing and the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing this week cut off the entry of food, supplies, and fuel for aid trucks and generators.

Aid groups warn they have only a few days of fuel before humanitarian operations and hospitals around Gaza begin to shut down.

Israel said it reopened Kerem Shalom on Wednesday, which was shut after Hamas mortars killed four Israeli soldiers nearby, but aid groups said no trucks were entering the Gaza side.

Trucks let through from Israel must be unloaded and the cargo reloaded onto trucks in Gaza, but no workers in Gaza can get to the facility to do so because it is too dangerous, the UN says.

Israel Palestinians
Israeli troops ordered the evacuation of 100,000 Palestinians from Gaza’s southern city of Rafah (AP Photo/Ramez Habboub)

Israel has said an assault on Rafah is crucial to its goal of destroying Hamas after the militant group’s October 7 attack on southern Israel that left 1,200 dead and 250 as hostages in Gaza.

The United States, which opposes a Rafah invasion, has said Israel has not provided a credible plan for evacuating and protecting civilians.

The war has killed more than 34,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, and has driven some 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes.

President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he would not supply offensive weapons that Israel could use to launch an all-out assault on Rafah, over concern for the wellbeing of the more than one million civilians sheltering there.

Mr Biden, in an interview with CNN, said the US was still committed to Israel’s defence and would supply Iron Dome rocket interceptors and other defensive arms, but that if Israel goes into Rafah, “we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells used”.

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