Aid group begins loading second shipment for Gaza after successful pilot run

First ship carrying 200 tonnes of relief reached enclave's coast on Friday to launch sea route from Cyprus

Pallets of food aid from the US charity World Central Kitchen and the UAE are loaded on to a vessel preparing to depart for Gaza from Larnaca, Cyprus. AP
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Aid organisation World Central Kitchen began loading a second ship with food and supplies for Gaza on Saturday after a successful pilot shipment reached the besieged enclave a day earlier.

“We are now at night working non-stop to get more aid to Gaza via the sea. We are loading a new boat ready to deliver more aid – inside these pallets are beans, canned meat, flour, rice, and of course we have dates,” said Juan Camilo of WCK, a partner in the relief operation that also involves the UAE and Cyprus.

A ship belonging to Spanish NGO Open Arms, towing a barge with 200 tonnes of food, arrived off the Gaza coast on Friday with the first delivery of aid to the enclave by sea since Israel declared war on Hamas, the militant group that governs the Palestinian territory, in October last year.

A WCK team in Gaza built a jetty for aid to be unloaded from incoming vessels.

As of Saturday morning, the ship had unloaded 130 pallets of equipment and 115 tonnes of food and water, which were then loaded onto 12 lorries that will distribute the aid to areas in northern Gaza, where about 700,000 people have been cut off from supplies by the war.

"All cargo was offloaded and is being readied for distribution in Gaza," the group said.

It was not clear when the lorries would begun carrying the aid into northern Gaza, but the Israeli army confirmed that they had already passed security checks.

The second shipment of aid would be about 240 tonnes comprising "pallets of canned goods and bulk product including beans, carrots, canned tuna, chickpeas, canned corn, parboiled rice, flour, oil and salt", WCK said.

The ship will also carry a forklift and a crane to assist with deliveries, although it is not yet clear when it will set sail, the group said.

Earlier last week, in a joint interview with The National, WCK chief executive Erin Gore and the UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation Reem Al Hashimy said the goal of the joint humanitarian project was to prevent deaths from hunger in northern Gaza.

“The operation is to avert famine in north Gaza … what can we do to bring in enough so we are not seeing people starve to death,” Ms Al Hashimy said.

Aid agencies have warned that hundreds of thousands of people face severe hunger in Gaza after more than five months of war that has devastated the territory and restricted the delivery of aid by land. Hospitals in the north of the strip have already reported children dying of starvation.

Aid delivered by sea, and dropped from planes in a Jordanian-led initiative that has grown in recent weeks, are far from sufficient as long as access by land is restricted, humanitarian groups say.

Israel has closed all land routes into Gaza apart from two crossings on the territory's southern edge. Aid entering through the crossings is subjected to strict checks by Israel.

Distribution of the limited aid that enters the territory has been chaotic and has frequently resulted in violence in recent weeks.

Most recently, Gaza health authorities said at least 21 people were killed and 150 wounded when Israeli troops opened fire on a crowd waiting for aid near Gaza city on Thursday night.

Updated: March 16, 2024, 9:13 AM