Aid ship sails to Gaza as Israel continues heavy bombardment

Gaza - A charity ship taking food aid to Gaza left the Mediterranean island of Cyprus on Tuesday in hopes of opening a maritime corridor to the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

The Open Arms vessel (c.) pictured in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Monday.
The Open Arms vessel (c.) pictured in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Monday.  © LARNACA, CYPRUS

The Open Arms set sail towing a barge loaded with 200 tons of relief goods for the sea journey of about 250 miles, as Cyprus said it was readying a second ship.

"The departure of the first ship is a sign of hope," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen wrote on social media platform X.

"We will work hard together for many more ships to follow."

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Heavy Israeli bombardment again rained down on Gaza, killing at least 80 people overnight, and dozens more were missing under the rubble, the health ministry in Gaza said.

"At least 80 martyrs arrived at hospitals, the majority children, women and the elderly," it said in a statement.

The war since Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel has leveled vast parts of the coastal strip and sparked dire food shortages that have led the UN World Food Program to warn that "famine is imminent" in northern Gaza.

Hundreds of truckloads of aid needed to sustain Gaza, UN says

Picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows humanitarian aid being airdropped over the Palestinian territory on Sunday.
Picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows humanitarian aid being airdropped over the Palestinian territory on Sunday.  © Menahem KAHANA / AFP

As the flow of aid trucks from Egypt has slowed – a trend variously blamed on the war, the growing insecurity on the ground, and cumbersome Israeli inspections of cargo – Western and Arab governments have stepped up daily airdrops.

However, the UN and other relief agencies warn that parachuting in aid parcels is less effective and falls far short of the hundreds of truckloads needed every day to sustain the population of 2.4 million people.

The humanitarian crisis has gripped Gaza at a time when Muslims have since Monday observed the month of Ramadan, where daytime fasts are traditionally broken with lavish evening iftar meals with family and friends.

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In Gaza's southern city of Rafah – now home to nearly 1.5 million people, many of whom have sought refuge in crowded shelters and makeshift tents – one man, Mohammad al-Masry, said this year the family had just "canned food and beans."

Another displaced woman, Umm Muhammad Abu Matar from Khan Yunis, told AFP that this year, Ramadan has "the taste of blood and misery."

Cover photo: LARNACA, CYPRUS

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