Cyprus Wins Support for Gaza Maritime Aid Plan

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides at an aid conference for Gaza in Paris, Nov. 9 (Nikos Christodoulides)
Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides at an aid conference for Gaza in Paris, Nov. 9 (Nikos Christodoulides)

Published Nov 9, 2023 7:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Cyprus has a plan to set up an aid sealift to Gaza, where an estimated 1.5 million people have been displaced amidst the ongoing security operation against the terrorist group Hamas. The proposal, laid out in a 25-page plan at an aid conference Thursday, is winning support from other EU nations - though the infrastructure for the Gaza end of the operation would still have to be worked out. 

The plan calls for aid to be transported and collected in Cyprus, where it would be inspected and registered, potentially at the port of Larnaca. It would be loaded aboard ships for transport to Gaza, with further inspection, and would transit on a secure sea corridor. At the end point in Gaza, it would be unloaded and distributed to the civilian population. 

Gaza's sole seaport is located in the north end of the territory in Gaza City, the epicenter of the Israeli security operation. There is a need for aid in this region: the UN reports that there are no bread bakeries working in the north side of Gaza because of a lack of fuel, water and flour, and no food or bottled water has been distributed there in a week. The UN humanitarian affairs coordination office, OCHA, says that several hundred thousand people remain in this area, despite an Israeli order for civilians to evacuate south. 

While direct aid deliveries to the pier in this region would fill a near-term need, the final-mile logistics question is thorny. Gaza City's port is small, designed for fishing vessels, and getting large quantities of goods to the pier could be challenging. 

An additional small port began construction near the town of Khan Yunis, further south, in 2016; details on its current status are limited and recent satellite photos show a single breakwater extending from shore. 

Any other alternative option in the south end of Gaza would require delivery to an unimproved beach site. Amphibious cargo transfer is an advanced ship-to-shore capability, typically provided by military forces. 

“The Republic of Cyprus is trying, within its capabilities, to ensure that humanitarian aid to Gaza is uninterrupted,” said the President of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulides. He added that the plan has the support of French President Emmanuel Macron and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Prince Rashid bin El Hassan of Jordan has also expressed support, his office said, along with the prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte.   

The government of Greece is also behind the plan. “The Cypriot proposal is well thought out,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement. “The most difficult aspect is to identify a suitable landing zone in southern Gaza, to create the necessary port infrastructure and to ensure the safety of the route, which will require the cooperation of all parties involved.”