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First Shipment of Aid to the US-Built Floating Pier in Gaza Departs from Cyprus

NICOSIA — A shipment of humanitarian aid has left a port in Cyprus and is on its way to the U.S-built pier in Gaza, the first delivery to the newly built ramp, Cyprus’ foreign minister said Thursday.

The relief is desperately needed, with the United Nations saying people in Gaza are on the brink of famine and as Israeli troops ordered the evacuation of 100,000 Palestinians from Gaza’s southern city of Rafah. Earlier this week, Israel sent tanks to seize the nearby Rafah crossing with Egypt, shutting down a vital crossing needed to get assistance into the battered enclave.

It remains uncertain whether Israel will launch an all-out invasion of Rafah as international efforts for a cease-fire continue. Israel has said an assault on Rafah is crucial to its goal of destroying Hamas after the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that left 1,200 dead and 250 as hostages in Gaza.

The United States, which opposes a Rafah invasion, has said Israel has not provided a credible plan for evacuating and protecting civilians. The war has killed over 34,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, and has driven some 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes.

The U.S. vessel, loaded with much needed humanitarian assistance, departed from the Larnaca port with the aim of transferring as much aid to Gaza as possible through the maritime corridor, said Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos.

The trip comes some two months after U.S. President Joe Biden gave the order to build the large floating platform several miles off the Gaza coast that will be the launching pad for deliveries.

However, humanitarians say aid coming by sea won’t be enough to alleviate the dire humanitarian suffering in Gaza and that the most effective way to get assistance in is by land.

The closure of the Rafah crossing and the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing this week cut off the entry of food, supplies, and fuel for aid trucks and generators. Aid groups warn they have only a few days of fuel before humanitarian operations and hospitals around Gaza begin to shut down.

Israel said Wednesday it reopened Kerem Shalom, which was shut after Hamas mortars killed four Israeli soldiers nearby, but aid groups said no trucks were entering the Gaza side.

Trucks let through from Israel must be unloaded and the cargo reloaded onto trucks in Gaza, but no workers in Gaza can get to the facility to do so because it is too dangerous, the U.N. says.

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