NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus is working out with partners in the European Union and the Middle East the logistics to establish a sea corridor to deliver a stream of vital humanitarian aid to Gaza from the island’s main port of Limassol once the situation on the ground permits it, authorities said Tuesday.
A senior government official — who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to publicly discuss details of the proposal — said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “wasn’t opposed” to the idea pitched by Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides last week.
Gaza’s humanitarian needs have escalated after the Israel-Hamas war erupted following the Palestinian militant group’s surprise Oct.7 attacks in Israel which left nearly 1,400 Israelis dead and at least 240 taken hostage. Israel retaliated with a military operation that has so far left over 8,000 Palestinians dead.
The underlying premise of Cyprus’ proposal is to have a constant flow of large quantities of assistance delivered by sea during what the official called “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting to enable aid to reach those in need.
“We want to be ready to start sending aid once a window of opportunity opens,” he said.
The official said the proposal has the support of many fellow EU member states including Ireland, Spain, France and the Netherlands, as well as Arab nations such as Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan. The U.S. government and the Palestinian authority in the West Bank have also been apprised of the proposal.
Christodoulides is scheduled to speak to Netanyahu by phone later Tuesday.
“Everyone recognizes the need for this corridor and that it is feasible,” the official said, adding that the need for even larger quantities of aid such as medical supplies, food and clothing will be more pressing as the Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza has been stepped up.
According to the official, Israel’s paramount concern is to ensure the aid doesn’t contain anything that Hamas could weaponize. Israel also wants to make sure the content of containers is vetted before leaving Limassol.
Cyprus is also in contact with the Palestinian authorities to determine which aid is needed the most.
The official said they are ironing out logistical details including the key question of where the ships will dock to offload aid and which international agencies in Gaza will be tasked with distributing it. Another issue is whether the supplies will be shipped by commercial or naval vessels.
The Mediterranean country is open to all suggestions on how to handle aid delivery effectively, whether offloading the supplies either directly in Gaza, or for them to be sent to either Israel or Egypt and then to the enclave.
“Cyprus is offering the geographical location, the infrastructure and the political will for this proposal to proceed,” the official said.