Second Gaza food aid ship leaves Cyprus

Second Gaza food aid ship leaves Cyprus

Washington approves new weapons package worth billions of dollars for Israel

A tugboat tows a barge loaded with humanitarian aid for Gaza as it leaves the port of Larnaca in Cyprus on Saturday. (Photo: Reuters)
A tugboat tows a barge loaded with humanitarian aid for Gaza as it leaves the port of Larnaca in Cyprus on Saturday. (Photo: Reuters)

LARNACA, Cyprus - A second shipment of aid carrying almost 400 tonnes of food for besieged Gaza left the port of Larnaca in Cyprus on Saturday, a Reuters witness said.

The aid will be taken to Gaza by a cargo ship and a platform towed by a salvage vessel.

It will be the second dispatch of aid via Cyprus, where Cypriot authorities have established, in cooperation with Israel, a maritime corridor to facilitate pre-screened cargoes arriving directly in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

The US-based charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) arranged the mission with the Spanish charity Open Arms, with financing mainly from the United Arab Emirates and support from Cypriot authorities.

On its first mission earlier in March, it built a makeshift jetty from rubble to enable offloading almost 200 tonnes of food in the enclave, which does not have any port facilities.

Saturday’s dispatch includes two forklifts and a crane to assist with future marine deliveries.

Separately, the United States plans to construct a floating pier off Gaza to receive aid. The target date for completion is May 1, but it could be ready by around April 15, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said.

The United Nations has warned that famine is imminent in the northern Gaza Strip, where 300,000 people are trapped by fighting. Across the whole of the enclave more than half its population of 2.3 million people could face famine by July, the UN has said.

The war erupted on Oct 7 after Hamas militants attacked Israel and killed 1,200 people and seized 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Israel has retaliated by launching an air and ground assault in the Gaza Strip that has killed 32,705 Palestinians as of this week, the Gaza health ministry said on Saturday.

The United States in recent days has authorised the transfer of billions of dollars worth of bombs and fighter jets to Israel, two sources familiar with the effort said on Friday, even as Washington publicly expresses concerns about an anticipated Israeli military offensive in Rafah in southern Gaza.

The new arms packages include more than 1,800 MK84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK82 500-pound bombs, said the sources, who confirmed a report in The Washington Post.

Washington gives $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to Israel, its longtime ally.

The package comes as Israel faces strong international criticism over its continued bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza and as some members of President Joe Biden’s party call for him to cut US military aid.

The United States has been rushing air defences and munitions to Israel, but some Democrats and Arab American groups have criticised the administration’s steadfast support of Israel, which they say provides it with a sense of impunity.

Biden on Friday acknowledged “the pain being felt” by many Arab Americans over the war in Gaza and over US support for Israel and its military offensive.

Still, he has vowed continued support for Israel despite an increasingly public rift with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House declined comment on the weapons transfers.

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision on weapons follows a visit to Washington by Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant this week when he discussed Israel’s weapons needs with US counterparts.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Gallant said he stressed the importance of US ties to his country’s security and of maintaining Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region, including its air capabilities.

Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on March 5. (Photo: Reuters)

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