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UN Warns of Famine Risk in Gaza as US Ship Departs for Aid

A US military vessel is en route to the Middle East, transporting materials to construct a temporary pier along the Gaza coast, as confirmed by the military.

Departing from a military base in Virginia on Saturday, the support ship, General Frank S Besson, is part of the effort following President Joe Biden’s announcement of the US constructing a floating harbor to facilitate sea-based aid access to Gaza.

With the UN highlighting the imminent risk of famine in the Gaza Strip, exacerbated by child starvation, previous attempts at aid deliveries via land and air have faced significant challenges and risks.

WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN/OPEN ARMS Picture of a ship with pallets of food in front of it

The World Food Programme faced setbacks in its land deliveries when convoys encountered gunfire and looting, prompting a temporary halt. Tragically, reports emerged on Friday of five casualties resulting from a mishap involving a falling aid package due to a malfunctioning parachute.

The US military ship swiftly set sail, departing “less than 36 hours” after President Biden’s announcement, as stated by US Central Command on X. This vessel is crucial in transporting the initial equipment needed to establish a temporary pier for delivering essential humanitarian supplies to Gaza.

Despite the Pentagon’s estimate of a potential 60-day construction period involving 1,000 troops, none of whom would disembark, aid organizations stress the urgency, expressing concerns that the people in Gaza cannot afford to wait for an extended duration.

Simultaneously, an aid-laden ship, Open Arms, carrying around 200 tonnes of food, is awaiting clearance at a port in Cyprus. The EU’s recent announcement of a new sea route opening over the weekend aims to expedite the sailing of aid directly from Cyprus, the closest EU country to Gaza. Hopes are high for Open Arms to depart before Monday.

The Spanish charity ship, Open Arms, carrying 200 tonnes of food from the US charity World Central Kitchen, is en route to Gaza. While the logistics of aid delivery to shore remain uncertain due to Gaza’s lack of a functioning port and shallow waters, Open Arms founder Oscar Camps revealed that a pier is being constructed at the undisclosed destination by a team from World Central Kitchen.

Israel has expressed support for the ocean initiative, indicating that aid will be delivered after security checks in Cyprus, aligning with Israeli standards. The military campaign in Gaza, initiated by Israel in response to Hamas attacks on October 7, resulted in significant casualties and ongoing tensions in the region.

The ongoing conflict has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with the UN warning that 576,000 people, a quarter of the population, face severe food insecurity. Western nations have urged Israel to enhance land deliveries, emphasizing the need for expanded routes and additional crossings.

While lorries have accessed the south through the Rafah crossing controlled by Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing controlled by Israel, the northern region, a primary focus of the Israeli ground offensive, has faced significant challenges in receiving assistance in recent months. Approximately 300,000 Palestinians in the north are grappling with limited access to food and clean water.

Accusations against Israel for obstructing aid efforts have surfaced, with an independent UN expert accusing the country of orchestrating a “starvation campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza.” In response, Yeela Cytrin, a legal adviser at the Israeli mission to the UN, vehemently rejected the allegations, leading to her protest departure from the session.

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