Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Israel wants to fast-track the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza through a maritime corridor from Cyprus, the country’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.


Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen said Israeli and Cypriot technical teams would spend Wednesday and Thursday finalising the details of the initiative, which would allow aid shipments to depart as soon as possible from Larnaca, a coastal city almost 400 kilometres away from Gaza.

“Cyprus and Israel, together with other partners in the region, are promoting the initiative for a secure maritime corridor to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza in an organised and well inspected manner,” Cohen said following talks with Cypriot foreign minister Constantinos Kombos.

Cohen was briefed on the initiative during a visit to the Zenon Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Larnaca, which will act as the operational hub for the aid shipments. He also personally inspected storage facilities and security arrangements at the city’s port.

Cyprus proposed a maritime aid corridor shortly after the start of the war in Gaza following the 7 October Hamas attacks across southern Israel which killed 1,200. The war, now into its tenth week, has devastated much of northern Gaza, killed nearly 20,000 Palestinians, and driven nearly 85% of the population from their homes.

The possibility of a new route by which aid can reach Gaza’s population comes at a time of increasing alarm over the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region. The UN and World Health Organization have both warned of looming health crises, with limited fuel supplies leaving many utilities and services paralysed. On Monday, the campaign group Human Rights Watch accused Israel of violating international law by adopting starvation as a method of warfare.

Reflecting on Cyprus’ role in the proposed maritime aid corridor, foreign minister Kombos said that “As the humanitarian needs escalate, so does the urgency of the need to act.” He explained that the Cypriot authorities have outlined a detailed plan for the “sustained flow of high-volume humanitarian assistance to the civilians in Gaza, through a dedicated one-way maritime corridor.”

Sea vessels will be tasked with delivering aid directly to the Gazan shoreline after shipments have been thoroughly inspected at Larnaca port in the presence of Israeli officials and international personnel.

Cyprus has confirmed that several countries, including Britain, have dispatched aid that is currently stored at the port. Britain has also sent a vessel to help with deliveries.

“It is a commitment to commence now and evolve into what, we hope, will be a long-term enterprise,” Kombos said of the preliminary agreement. “Cyprus stands ready. We look forward to your green light for the first voyage,” he told his Israeli counterpart.

Meanwhile, Cohen reiterated that Israel does not want to open another front on its northern border with Lebanon to stop Hezbollah rocket fire, but would not hesitate to do so if the international community does not act to stop the attacks.

“A war in Lebanon can still be avoided,” Cohen said. ”If the international community will not succeed in doing so, we will be left with no other choice but to take the necessary action.”

The Israeli minister also again ruled out a cease-fire in Gaza, saying that it would be a “gift” to Hamas. He chastised nations that voted in favour of a resolution in the UN General Assembly calling for a cessation of hostilities.

“Let me send a clear message to the international community and to the UN member states. If a terror organisation celebrates your decision, it means you have made the wrong decisions. You are on the wrong side of history,” Cohen said.

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