Maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza to deliver humanitarian assistance

Israel says Cypriot initiative will allow more humanitarian aid to Gaza ‘after security checks are carried out in accordance with Israeli standards’

The US, the European Commission, EU states, the United Arab Emirates and Britain announced on Friday a plan to open a maritime corridor to deliver humanitarian assistance to Gaza via Cyprus, where Israel will inspect the supplies before sailing.

“The delivery of humanitarian assistance directly to Gaza by sea will be complex, and our nations will continue to assess and adjust our efforts to ensure we deliver aid as effectively as possible ... We will continue to work with Israel to expand deliveries by land, insisting that it facilitate more routes and open additional crossings to get more aid to more people,” the parties said in a statement.

The announcement followed US president Joe Biden’s dramatic revelation during his State of the Union address that the US would construct a pier on the Gaza coast to facilitate the arrival of humanitarian supplies, without US troops entering the coastal enclave.

Israel welcomed the plan. “The Cypriot initiative will allow the increase of humanitarian aid to Gaza after security checks are carried out in accordance with Israeli standards,” the foreign ministry said.


However, Israeli defence officials said the main problem remains the distribution of the aid after it reaches the Gaza shore and how to stop the supplies being looted or seized by Hamas gunmen.

The Israeli officials say that whoever controls the distribution of humanitarian aid controls the Gaza Strip. Israel has agreed that local armed residents who are not Hamas operatives can secure the convoys. Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has also insisted that people securing the convoys cannot be connected to the Palestinian Authority.

At least two people were killed and several wounded by humanitarian aid packages that were dropped into northwest Gaza city on Friday. Videos of American packages, whose parachutes did not open, were distributed on social media.

The Israeli military on Friday released the findings of its investigation into the deaths of Palestinians during the entry of a humanitarian supply convoy last week. The Hamas-run health ministry said more than 100 people were killed and accused Israeli soldiers of shooting at the desperate residents in Gaza city.

The Israel Defence Forces denied the claim, saying that “from the command’s investigation it appears that the soldiers did not fire at the humanitarian convoy itself, but at only at a number of suspects who approached the nearby forces and who posed a threat to them”.

According to the Gaza health ministry, 30,800 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostages seized on October 7th when militants stormed across the border, entering 22 communities. Some 134 hostages remain in Hamas captivity.

With the Gaza war now in its sixth month and talks for a ceasefire over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – expected to begin on Sunday – deadlocked, Israeli leaders continue to plan for a military offensive on Rafah on the Egyptian border, where more than a million residents have fled.

Relatives of the hostages blocked the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway on Friday, locking themselves in cages and demanding the immediate release of the captives who have spent 154 days in Hamas captivity.

The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency session on Monday to discuss a report issued this week by the UN’s envoy on sexual violence. The report found signs that sexual violence was committed during the Hamas-led October 7th attack on Israel. It also said abuse of those hostages still being held in the Gaza Strip may be continuing.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem