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Ashdod port will open for urgently needed shipments of flour for Gaza in “hours or days”, a senior Israeli military officer said on Monday.
As Palestinians in the enclave increasingly face starvation, it was suggested at a press briefing attended by The National that a maritime humanitarian route from Cyprus could also begin soon.
The Ashdod plan was announced by the White House over the weekend but Israel had not publicly commented on the deal until Monday.
During a briefing with international journalists, Colonel Elad Goren, who leads on civil issues in Gaza, was asked about Washington’s announcement on getting food through the Israeli port, which is just 26km north of the territory.
“There are several steps that we need to do in order to implement it,” he said. “I'm sure that we will know more in the next few hours or days.”
The flour is desperately needed to make bread for Palestinians barely surviving on the limited supplies being allowed in, especially in northern Gaza, which is largely cut off from the south but which still hosts 200,000 people. The cost of a 25kg bag of flour in Gaza has soared from $10 before the war to $50.
Lord Cameron, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, stated that the Ashdod opening was a “welcome move”.
“The UK has been pushing hard for Ashdod to be used for the delivery of life-saving aid into Gaza,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “We need these shipments to continue and for this port to remain open for aid.”
A spokesman for Israel's Co-ordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) clarified that "no final decision had been made" on the opening of Ashdod port for flour imports.
Col Goren, who leads the Civil Department of the Co-ordination of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat), was also asked about the proposal made by European powers to send ships from Cyprus to Gaza.
“I can assure you that we are learning the challenges and once we will learn it with our partners, other countries that are interested in this issue, we will implement it.”
The plan is for 2,000 tonnes of aid per vessel to be loaded at the Cypriot port of Larnaca. It would be checked by a joint committee including Israel.
The aid convoys would then be escorted by warships to an area on the Gaza coast, from where it would be landed on the shore.
The UN has warned that Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million is at imminent risk of famine and the only way to stop a catastrophe is by an immediate ceasefire and aid.
It has estimated that almost 380,000 Palestinians there are currently at catastrophic levels of food insecurity, experiencing an extreme lack of food that is exhausting their coping mechanisms.
Col Goren said the Israeli military would “do everything that we can in order to minimise harm to the civilian population” and would help “facilitate the entrance of humanitarian aid” into Gaza.
He added that Israel had helped set up six field hospitals in the territory that had treated 6,000 Palestinians, with another two coming in the next week.
Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire and vowed to continue the war in Gaza until it achieves its objective of destroying the militant group Hamas, which launched an attack on Israel on October 7 in which about 1,200 Israelis were killed.
More than 25,200 Palestinians have been killed and about 63,000 have been injured since the outbreak of the war, the health ministry in Gaza reported on Monday.