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Mar 8, 2024, 9:42am EST
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Semafor Signals

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EU chief says maritime aid route from Cyprus to Gaza may open this weekend

Insights from Al Jazeera, The New Arab, Politico, and El Pais


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Palestinians sit near Mediterranean Sea, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 13, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
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The News

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday said a maritime aid corridor from Cyprus to Gaza could begin operating this weekend, a day after the U.S. announced plans to open a temporary port in the enclave to speed up humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations has said that at least a quarter of Gaza’s population is on the brink of a famine and children are dying of hunger since the enclave has come under attack by Israeli forces following Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

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Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

US port plan criticized as a distraction

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Source:  
Al Jazeera

The U.S. plan, announced during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Thursday, has been panned by some critics as a diversion from the issue at hand. Hundreds of thousands of people “are starving in north Gaza now, and Israel is not allowing humanitarian aid to them or the rest of the Gaza Strip,” the secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative told Al Jazeera. The announcement was “more theatrical and more public relations … than it is a sincere attempt at bringing an end to the suffering in Gaza,” said the outlet’s political analyst, Marwan Bishara. Biden’s announcement did however help to relieve some of the pressure he faces among Democrats who have called for more aid to reach the enclave, a Middle East studies professor added — but ultimately, the move reaffirmed “fundamentally his support for Israel, first.”

Israel has stalled Cyprus aid for months

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Source:  
El Pais

A Cypriot ship called the Open Arms — capable of carrying 200 tons of food — has been docked for months as its crew awaits permission to travel to and unload its supplies in Gaza. Nicosia announced three months ago that it intended to establish a logistics hub for humanitarian relief, a plan that seemed largely forgotten until von der Leyen’s announcement. As a result, staff for Open Arms and the World Central Kitchen, with which it has partnered, set out to negotiate with Israel on their own, Spanish outlet El Pais reported. The maritime corridor will be the first to be established since 2007. “No one enters and no one leaves without Israeli permission, and that is precisely what is needed to help hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whose lives are already hanging by a thread,” El Pais’ Lola Hierro wrote.

Gaza’s limited infrastructure will hamper shipments

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Sources:  
The New Arab, Politico

Gaza currently does not have a functioning sea port, creating huge logistical challenges for maritime aid shipments. The port has been damaged by Israeli bombardment, while a U.S. defense department official told Politico that the security situation in the enclave presents its own set of problems. Washington will need to rely on Israel to create a security zone for the shipments, since it has said that it will not deploy American troops in the area. “A ship in port is a sitting duck,” the official said. “You don’t want to incur that risk for an asset such as that. You don’t get it back.”

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