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Second aid ship heads for Gaza with tonnes of food for starving Palestinians

Second aid ship heads for Gaza with tonnes of food for starving Palestinians

A three-ship convoy carrying 400 tonnes of food and other supplies to starving Palestinians in Gaza left a port in Cyprus on Saturday as concerns mount about hunger in the territory.

US charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) said the vessels and a barge were carrying enough ready-to-eat items, including rice, pasta, flour, legumes, canned vegetables and proteins, to prepare more than 1 million meals. Also on board were dates, which are traditionally eaten to break the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

It is the second shipment this month, after Israel eased a 17-year naval blockade on the Gaza Strip to allow aid sourced by WCK to enter the territory from Cyprus. It comes after the Cypriot authorities established, in cooperation with Israel, a maritime corridor to facilitate the delivery of pre-screened cargo directly to Gaza.

A ship operated by Spanish charity Open Arms inaugurated the direct sea route to the Palestinian territory earlier this month, with 200 tonnes of food, water and other aid. A makeshift jetty was built from rubble to offload the cargo, as the territory does not have any port facilities.

Saturday’s convoy includes two forklifts and a crane to assist with future marine deliveries, as well as a team to operate the crane.

Palestinians collect their belongings from the rubble of a residential building after an Israeli airstrike in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip (AP)
Palestinians collect their belongings from the rubble of a residential building after an Israeli airstrike in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip (AP)

Separately, the US plans to construct a floating pier off Gaza to receive aid. The target for completion is 1 May but it could be ready by around 15 April, Cypriot president Nikos Christodoulides said late on Friday, citing briefings with US officials earlier in the week.

The aid will be taken to Gaza on a cargo ship and a barge towed by a salvage vessel, along with a tugboat carrying a support team – a journey that will take about 60 hours, according to a Cypriot official.

WCK, which has been active in Gaza for months, arranged the mission with the Open Arms charity, with financing mainly from the United Arab Emirates and support from Cypriot authorities.

A Palestinian woman and a girl on a beach near a makeshift camp for displaced people in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Saturday (AFP via Getty)
A Palestinian woman and a girl on a beach near a makeshift camp for displaced people in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Saturday (AFP via Getty)

It was not clear when this latest convoy of ships would reach Gaza, but the United Nations and partners have warned that famine could occur in devastated, largely isolated northern Gaza imminently.

During an airdrop on Friday, the US military said it had released over 100,000lb of aid that day and almost 1,000,000lb overall as part of a multi-country effort, but humanitarian officials say deliveries by sea and air are not enough and that Israel must allow far more aid to be delivered by road.

The top UN court has ordered Israel to open more land crossings and take other measures to address the humanitarian crisis.

Roughly 300,000 people are trapped by fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, where the UN has warned that famine is imminent. More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million could face famine by July, the organisation has said. More than 80 per cent of the population has been displaced.

UN peacekeepers hold their flag as they observe Israeli excavators attempting to destroy tunnels built by Hezbollah near the border in 2019 (AP)
UN peacekeepers hold their flag as they observe Israeli excavators attempting to destroy tunnels built by Hezbollah near the border in 2019 (AP)

UN officials have accused Israel of blocking humanitarian supplies to Gaza, but Israeli officials reject those accusations and say the delivery of aid once inside the territory is the responsibility of UN and humanitarian agencies.

Airstrikes and Israel’s ground offensive have left 32,705 Palestinians dead, Hamas-run local health authorities said on Saturday, with 82 bodies taken to hospitals in the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, three United Nations observers and a translator were wounded on Saturday when a shell exploded near them as they were carrying out a foot patrol in southern Lebanon, the UN peacekeeping mission said, adding that it was still investigating the origin of the blast.

The UN peacekeeping mission, known as Unifil (the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), along with unarmed technical observers from Untso (the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation), is stationed in southern Lebanon to monitor hostilities along the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, known as the blue line.

Lebanese armed group Hezbollah has been trading fire with the Israeli military across the blue line since October in parallel with the war in Gaza.

Unifil said in a statement on Saturday that the targeting of peacekeepers is “unacceptable” and that the wounded staff had been evacuated for treatment.

Two security sources had earlier told reporters that the observers had been wounded in an Israeli strike outside the border town of Rmeish.