Aid ship sails to Gaza

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — An aid ship loaded with some 200 tons of food set sail for Gaza on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, in a pilot program for the opening of a sea corridor to the territory, where the 5-month Israel-Hamas war has driven hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the brink of starvation.

The push to get food in by sea — along with a recent campaign of airdrops into isolated northern Gaza — highlighted the international community’s frustration with the growing humanitarian crisis and its inability to get aid in by road.

The food on the aid ship was collected by World Central Kitchen, the charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, and is being transported by the Spanish aid group Open Arms. The ship departed from the eastern Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus and is expected to arrive in Gaza in two to three days.

The United States separately plans to construct a sea bridge near Gaza in order to deliver aid, but it will likely be several weeks before it is operational. President Joe Biden’s administration has provided crucial military aid for Israel while urging it to facilitate more humanitarian access.

The war, triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, has killed over 31,000 Palestinians and driven most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people from their homes. A quarter of Gaza’s population is starving, according to the United Nations, because they cannot find enough food or afford it at vastly inflated prices.

Efforts by US, Qatar and Egypt to broker a ceasefire and hostage release before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan stalled as Hamas demanded that any temporary pause in the fighting come with guarantees for ending the war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to expand the offensive into the strip’s southern city of Rafah, where half of Gaza’s population has sought refuge, and to keep fighting until Hamas has been dismantled and all the captives it is holding have been returned. / AP


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