PARIS – Cyprus’ President Nikos Christodoulides revealed to a meeting in Paris of international leaders a plan to use the sea to bring humanitarian aid to Palestinians caught in Israel’s war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
He said that it could be put into operation quickly to carry goods from donors from the island whose Greek-Cypriot side is a member of the European Union to Gaza, only 370 kilometers (230 miles) away, reported Reuters.
“We hope immediately to implement it,” he said of the 25-page proposal to expand aid of critical goods beyond limited deliveries being made through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian enclave.
After Hamas terrorist raids into Israel on Oct. 7 killed more than 1,400 people, Israel has retaliated with constant air strikes and now sent troops into Gaza trying to root them out and find some 239 hostages.
But diplomats said delivering assistance isn’t as easy as it sounds with the war still going on and the Palestinians trapped between Hamas and Israeli forces in a conflict estimated to have killed some 10,000 by some accounts.
Israel said that it would want oversight of the goods to inspect them and has rejected all calls for a ceasefire, maintaining that would give Hamas time to regroup and attack again.
Christodoulides said the operations center would be based in the southern Cypriot city of Larnaca, where there is a port and airport, and where a coordination center with 33 countries is already in place.
The port’s capacity would be 200,000 tons of humanitarian aid, enabling 2,000 tons of aid transfers per vessel, aid arriving on Cyprus sent on vessels checked daly by a joint committee, including Israelis, he said.
Once loaded, convoys would be followed by warships to an area identified on the Gaza coast, from where it would be sent to a safe, neutral area.
“For the medium and long-term there are several steps to designate a port and adapted floating harbor,” Christodoulides said, adding that the European Commission, Greece, France and The Netherlands want to be involved.
“We need to identify a zone in the south of Gaza to create the port infrastructure,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. “If these conditions are fulfilled Greece would be ready to help with naval ships.”
Diplomats, the news agency said, also added that France suggested expanding the corridor to evacuate severely wounded people onto hospital ships in the Mediterranean off Gaza.