In a groundbreaking humanitarian effort, Britain and Cyprus have collaborated to send 87 tonnes of aid to Gaza, utilising a unique route via Egypt.
Cypriot officials announced the successful testing of a screening mechanism for cargoes, presenting an alternative path for delivering much-needed supplies to the beleaguered Palestinian enclave.
The aid, which arrived on January 1 at Port Said in Egypt, is set to be transferred to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. While falling short of Cyprus’ ultimate goal to establish a direct aid corridor to Gaza, this initiative provides a workaround by eliminating security checks within Israel itself, a development hailed by officials.
The shipment comprises 10,770 thermal blankets, 4,805 shelter packs, and 10 tons of pharmaceutical products, generously contributed by Cyprus.
According to Ekathimerini, the Cypriot initiative involves aid undergoing security checks in Cyprus by various government agencies, including those from Israel, before being dispatched from the eastern Mediterranean island.
Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides expressed optimism about the impact of this alternative route, stating, “The international community now has a workable alternative at its disposal to send additional humanitarian aid to the population of Gaza.”
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to supporting the people of Gaza, emphasising the urgent need for more aid to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian population.
The ongoing offensive by Israel in retaliation for cross-border activities by Hamas militants has left much of Gaza in ruins, with a devastating toll on the population. At least 22,000 people have lost their lives, and the humanitarian disaster has left the majority of the 2.3 million population homeless and facing severe shortages of food, water, medicine, and fuel.
Israel’s outgoing foreign minister, Eli Cohen, announced on Sunday that his country was prepared to allow ships to deliver aid to Gaza immediately. However, the logistical challenges in executing a direct route to Gaza, including security matters, have not been fully met at this point, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The proximity of Cyprus, being just 370 km northwest of Gaza, positions it as the closest European Union member state to the region. The plan aims to enhance the capacity for humanitarian relief to the Gaza Strip beyond the limited overland deliveries currently taking place through Rafah.
While the direct sail to Gaza with Israel’s consent could signify a significant easing of the naval blockade imposed in 2007, the dynamic situation and ongoing deliberations with stakeholders underscore the complexities of operationalising this initiative. The British Royal Fleet auxiliary ship, Lyme Bay, which offloaded aid in Egypt, faced a 10-day wait for clarity on its ability to sail directly to Gaza, revealing the intricate nature of the process.