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UK remains tight-lipped over Cyprus role in Gaza missions (updated)

servicemen walk near a british tornado jet at the raf akrotiri in cyprus
File Photo: Akrotiri air base

The British government was being tight lipped about any operations, humanitarian or military, in Gaza that may involve Cyprus on Tuesday after reports surfaced that the UK could provide ships to deliver humanitarian aid and would conduct surveillance flights to find hostages over the eastern Mediterranean.

Contacted by the Cyprus Mail to comment on whether the flights would be out of the sovereign base area in Akrotiri, the ministry said no other information except for the flights occurring was available.

The aircraft will be unarmed, will not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages, the UK government said, adding that only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for hostage rescue.

This is not the first time the UK has been in the news for military operations out of Akrotiri, as reports in the last few weeks have pegged that the UK was also lending its base to the Americans to also conduct operations in Gaza.

A few weeks ago, a report, which was on UK Declassified citing Haaretz newspaper in Israel, said that the US was using Akrotiri to supply arms to Israel in the continuing attack on Gaza, following the Hamas attack on Israel last month.

According to information from Declassified, US weapons and equipment are likely being delivered to RAF Akrotiri from US bases in Turkey, Spain and Germany.

Both Nicosia and London denied the Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) on the island are being used as a conduit for weapons transfers to Israel amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza. But the UK government’s reluctance to provide any information as to what materiel is in fact being airlifted to Israel via Akrotiri, while neither proving nor disproving the proposition, appears to leave the matter an open question.

Meanwhile, asked by the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), to comment on news that the British would be sending shallow-water ships that could approach Gaza as part of the humanitarian aid corridor plan, the foreign office said only that it was looking at alternative ways aside from the Rafah crossing in Egypt to deliver aid.

The boats, according to Reuters, have the ability to approach the coasts without the need for special infrastructure.

While the source declined to comment on the specific report, it referred to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s remarks at last week’s COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

“I warmly welcomed the pause in the fighting to allow hostages to be removed … and we have taken the opportunity to get more aid into Gaza. The UK has tripled its aid, but still not enough (aid) is coming in through Rafah and other passages. Therefore, we are actively exploring other routes, including by sea,” Sunak said on Friday.

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