Gaza aid ship will hopefully secure sea corridor, be ‘first of many’: Spanish charity

Gaza aid ship will hopefully secure sea corridor, be ‘first of many’: Spanish charity

Operation is highly complex and unique but necessary for Gaza population, says Laura Lanuza, communications and projects director at Open Arms- ‘The most important thing is to open this corridor … because it’s been decades with this maritime corridor closed and this blockade from Israel,’ Lanuza tells Anadolu

By Rabia Ali

ISTANBUL (AA) – The first ship with desperately needed food supplies has arrived on the coast of Gaza, marking a key test of a planned sea corridor to deliver aid to Palestinians pushed to the brink of starvation by Israel’s continuing assault and blockade.

The Open Arms, named after the Spanish charity that owns it, set sail on Tuesday from Larnaca, a port on the Greek Cypriot administration of Cyprus, towing a barge with 200 tons of food provided by the US-based World Central Kitchen (WCK).

“We are very relieved that we finally could open this corridor and we hope that we will be the first boat to arrive of many,” Laura Lanuza, communications and projects director at Open Arms, told Anadolu.

What the civilian population in Gaza “are suffering and going through is really painful,” she added.

Israel launched its war on Gaza after the Oct. 7 cross-border attack by Hamas, and has since killed more than 31,300 Palestinians and pushed the territory to the brink of famine. Latest estimates indicate at least 27 people have already starved to death in Gaza.

The aid mission, named Operation Safeena, aims to inaugurate a maritime aid corridor proposed by the Greek Cypriot administration, and supported by the UK, US and EU.

On Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the authorization given to Open Arms to deliver aid directly to Gaza was the first since 2005.

The EU, she said, will collaborate with “smaller ships” till the US military completes the construction of a floating port off Gaza’s coast.

Lanuza expressed hope that this voyage by Open Arms “is the first trip of many.”

“The most important thing is to open this corridor, to be the first one to open it, because it’s been decades with this maritime corridor closed and this blockade from Israel,” she said.

She said if this operation is a success, there “are tons of food already waiting … for a second trip.”

“The idea is that other boats will join us in order for the population to have as much aid as possible, because the situation in Gaza at the moment is extreme,” she added.

- What is the operation?

The operation started when Jose Andres, founder of WCK, contacted Open Arms Director Oscar Camps, Lanuza told Anadolu in a conversation on Thursday evening.

A major challenge was the fact that there is no functioning port in Gaza, so the two organizations started working on finding a solution to deliver and disembark the aid, she said.

For weeks, there have been “many conversations” with officials from all sides on “ways to approach this corridor,” she explained.

WCK is building a pier on the Gaza coast and a platform will be placed next to the pier to disembark the aid, said Lanuza.

She said this is Open Arms’ second collaboration with WCK, following their joint mission in Odessa in 2022.

“We really are happy to engage in this second, and this very unique and very special and necessary operation, for Gaza and its population,” she said.

The ship is carrying 200 tons of food, including flour, rice, canned tuna fish, beans and other vegetables.

The aid distribution will be handed by WCK, who have been on the ground for months and are feeding the population there with over 60 kitchens in Gaza, said Lanuza.

“This food will go directly to their kitchens to start cooking for everyone there,” she added.

- Challenges and secrecy

The biggest challenges in the mission were technical, said Lanuza.

“No one before had been able to prepare a project in which the disembarkation on the shore was possible due to the lack of ports in Gaza,” she said.

The other very important issue was the “diplomatic conversations.”

“So, both were really difficult … We’ve been working on both aspects day and night for over three weeks,” said Lanuza.

The ship only set sail after Israeli authorities inspected and scanned all the cargo and the vessel.

According to Lanuza, any details on the operation had to be kept secret for “security reasons” in order to avoid problems, particularly at the moment of disembarkation.

The arrival time and location of the ship could not be disclosed to “prevent from any problems on that side,” she said.

“But the pier will be finished by the time the boat arrives,” she said.

“Hopefully, we will learn a lot from this very first trip which is … highly complex and there are many aspects,” she added.

Gaza aid ship will hopefully secure sea corridor, be ‘first of many’: Spanish charity

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