Cyprus Mail

Humanitarian aid ships return to Cyprus (Updated, video)

site of a strike on wck vehicle in central gaza strip
A destroyed vehicle from World Central Kitchen

By Iole Damaskinos and Tom Cleaver

The three ships which had carried humanitarian aid from Cyprus to Gaza but then were forced to turn back as Israel bombed aid workers’ vehicles arrived back in Cyprus on Wednesday evening.

The Jennifer, the Open Arms, and the Ledra Dynamic, alongside the floating platform the Ares all entered Cypriot territorial waters shortly before 6pm and are expected to dock at the Larnaca port shortly.

A total of 240 tonnes of the 332 which were sent from Cyprus on Saturday have returned with the ships.

A total of seven aid workers were killed on Monday night when Israel carried out an airstrike on three vehicles belonging to the charity World Central Kitchen (WCK), which had been distributing the aid sent from Cyprus.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Nikos Christodoulides had said the construction of the temporary port in Gaza is at an advanced stage and that aid to Gaza will be increased.

He said that he had discussed the status of the temporary port being built on the Gaza coast with US military personnel on the island.

“I am glad because these efforts are at an advanced stage,” he said. Christodoulides noted the Republic had condemned from the outset the attack on WCK on Monday and that there was no justification for it.

“We are in contact with WCK and I hope that soon humanitarian aid will not only resume but also increase, because the goal is clearly for it to increase,” he said.

The president said the state was also in contact with Israel.

“We have expressed our dissatisfaction with what has been done,” he said. Earlier Christodoulides had joined calls by others for a full investigation into the incident.

WCK had on Tuesday said they were pausing their operations with a view to making decisions in the near future regarding the future of their work in Gaza.

The Cyprus Mail asked deputy government spokesman Yiannis Antoniou whether the government had made contact with any other organisations or had a backup plan should WCK choose to not continue its operations.

He said no such plans have been made yet, but that the government are in “constant contact” with WCK, and that the organisation have not yet made their final decision on whether or not they will continue their activities.

The foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that the workers had been 12 kilometres away from the loading and unloading area, by agreement with the Israeli authorities, when struck and said the act was “absolutely condemnable”.

Aid provisions stored in Larnaca are ready to go but respect must be granted for the wishes of the families of the deceased to pause the operation, Gotsis said.

“The matter of security is tantamount and we are awaiting the results of the [Israeli] investigation,” he noted.

“We can’t get into speculation but questions were raised by the incident,” Gotsis said.

Nonetheless contacts were ongoing on how to continue to run the sea corridor, particularly in cooperation with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), he said.

“For our part we remain committed to providing support and for items to be inspected in Cyprus, if and when the aid workers are ready to proceed,” Gotsis said.

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