Aid supplies to Gaza: First shipment ready

After arriving southwest of Gaza City, the load was distributed among twelve trucks. The donated food will be used to prepare meals for residents of northern Gaza, where the humanitarian situation is particularly dire. The ship “Open Arms” towed the reef, which, according to WCK, was carrying nearly 200 tons of food from Cyprus to Gaza.

“We did it,” World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres X said on Twitter. The first aid ship was sent as a “trial”. “We can bring thousands of tons (of aid) every week,” he stressed. The “Open Arms” departed on Tuesday from the Cypriot port of Larnaca, where Israeli officials had earlier inspected the cargo.

Reuters/Yiannis Kourtoglou

Distribution of aid during inspection at Larnaca port

A second ship in readiness

The “Open Arms” mission is considered a pilot project to provide for the more than two million people in the Gaza Strip, who have now lost practically everything due to the war. The organization, founded by Andres, a Spanish celebrity chef living in the US, is currently preparing another ship with relief supplies in Larnaca. It can carry 240 tonnes of food. The opening date is still unclear.

In the Gaza Strip, the organization works with local partners to run 60 community kitchens that prepare food for the Palestinian population. Since the Gaza war began in October, it says it has delivered 1,500 truckloads of 37 million meals to the sealed-off coastal enclave.

Help from the air

The first ship set sail on a planned aid corridor announced by the EU Commission and Cypriot leaders a week ago. Separately, the US is planning a sea route to Gaza, for which the US military will build a floating dock near the Gaza coast. At the same time, international aid is being dropped from the air into the war zone – the German Air Force recently began its aid mission.

UN: One in three children in northern Gaza is malnourished

Open arms and the WCK's Gaza mission receives support from Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In addition to the inspection, the Israeli military also secured the landing site on Friday. The humanitarian efforts come against the backdrop of a worsening emergency for people in the Gaza Strip.

According to findings by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 31 percent of children under the age of two in northern Gaza are currently malnourished. It was 15.6 percent of children in January, the organization announced Friday. In this part of the Gaza Strip, the supply crisis is very bad due to the ongoing war.

Movement in negotiation?

Meanwhile, a new plan by Hamas as part of faltering backdoor negotiations for a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages is cause for cautious optimism. “This plan is broadly within the framework of the agreement that we've been working on for months,” National Security Council communications director John Kirby said at the White House on Friday.

In fact, Hamas has not demanded that Israel stop the war before exchanging its first hostages for Palestinian prisoners now in Israeli jails.

Under the plan announced on Thursday, the Islamists would make Israel's release of the hostages a precondition for a second round of hostage releases. In doing so, Hamas moved closer to, and Israel accepted, the content of a multi-phase plan presented several weeks ago by mediators the United States, Egypt and Qatar.

Netanyahu: Proposal “unrealistic”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Hamas's proposal as “unrealistic.” Meanwhile, it was said that an Israeli delegation will travel to Qatar following the Defense Cabinet discussion on Israel's position. It will be the first time Israeli negotiators have participated in closed-door talks in the capital Doha in two weeks.

Graphic of the planned attack on Rafah

Graphics: APA/ORF; Source: BBC/ISW

US demands details on Israel's Rafah projects

The US government on Friday called on Israel to submit “credible” and “feasible” evacuation plans to the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which borders Egypt, in the event of an Israeli military offensive. Kirby said he had never seen projects like this before and welcomed the opportunity to see them.

“We cannot and will not support any plan that does not adequately take into account these one and a half million refugees in Gaza,” he stressed. There must be a plan for these people – anything else would be “catastrophic”, he warned. The people of Gaza must have a place to be safe from the fighting.

According to his office, Netanyahu had earlier approved plans for a military operation in Rafah on Friday. In addition to operational operations, the army is preparing to evacuate civilians from the area, the statement said.

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