Upcoming sea route between Cyprus and Gaza… Biden: Netanyahu needs to do more

The European Union and the United States have announced the opening of a sea route between Cyprus and Gaza, expected to take them to the Palestinian territories, which Israel continues to bomb relentlessly five months after the war began.

It comes after US President Joe Biden announced a major humanitarian operation by sea that, according to officials in his administration, will include building a “temporary dock” in Gaza to bring in “massive aid,” but that could take weeks to complete.

Israel “welcomed” the humanitarian sea route from Cyprus, located about 380 kilometers from Gaza. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat said at Platform X that the initiative “will allow for an increase in humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip after conducting security checks in accordance with Israeli standards.”

Five months after the devastating war that erupted on October 7 following a Hamas attack on southern Israel, Israeli strikes have claimed the lives of no fewer than 78 people in the past few hours, bringing the death toll in Gaza to 30,878. War, according to a statement by the Ministry of Health on Friday.

The US has been putting more pressure on its ally Israel, which has imposed a “total” blockade on the Gaza Strip since October 9.

US President Joe Biden said Benjamin Netanyahu should allow more aid to enter Gaza, saying he would openly discuss the war on the Strip with the Israeli prime minister via open microphone.

According to the United Nations, 2.2 million people, who make up the majority of Gaza's population, are threatened by famine, with severe shortages of food and drinking water. 1.7 million of them were displaced from their homes due to bombing and fighting.

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A “complicated” process

“We are very close to opening this corridor and we hope it will happen this Sunday,” European Commission President van der Leyen said after a visit to the port city of Larnaca in southern Cyprus.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is catastrophic. For this reason, the European Commission, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States have today announced their intention to open a sea route to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid,” a joint statement by the parties contributing to the project said.

Although they acknowledged that the process was “complicated”, the contributors affirmed their commitment to work “to ensure that aid is delivered as effectively as possible”.

On March 17, von der Leyen travels to Egypt, accompanied by the Prime Ministers of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and the Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexandre de Croux.

On Friday, Arab and Western countries, including the US and France, carried out several air strikes.

But sending aid by air and by sea cannot replace the land route, according to the United Nations, which warns that “large-scale famine is almost inevitable” in Gaza.

“Diversification of land distribution channels is the best solution,” said Sigrid Kok, the United Nations coordinator in charge of aid to Gaza.

Also, five people died and ten others were injured on Friday when humanitarian aid boxes fell from planes in Gaza City without their parachutes opening, a medical source said.

Delivering aid to various parts of Gaza, particularly in the north, is extremely difficult due to fighting, bombing, destruction and sometimes looting.

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According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, at least 23 civilians, most of them children, died of malnutrition and dehydration.

Israel directly occupied Gaza between 1967 and 2005, and it has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas took over its administration in 2007.

“We were sleeping when they bombed”

The fighting erupted after an October 7 attack by Hamas in southern Israel, killing more than 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to an Agence France-Presse account based on official Israeli data.

About 250 people were abducted and transferred to Gaza that day. 130 of them are still being held, 31 of whom Israel says have died.

In response to the attack, Israel pledged to eliminate Hamas, which it classifies as a “terrorist organization,” along with the United States and the European Union.

“The Israeli army will continue its operations throughout Gaza, including Rafah, the last stronghold of Hamas,” Netanyahu reiterated on Thursday.

Israel says it is preparing to occupy Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, on the closed border with Egypt, where roughly 1.5 million Palestinians have gathered, according to the United Nations, to achieve “total victory.”

In Rafah, displaced woman Jamila Abu Odeh (55) told tearful Agence France-Presse after her relatives' house was destroyed and many were killed and wounded, “We were sleeping when they were bombed by a missile. . We lost my predecessor and his children were killed. We considered it a safe area for displaced people, but they fired a missile.

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“No Compromise”

Ceasefire talks are scheduled to resume next week in the Egyptian capital after four days of tough negotiations in Cairo, a Cairo news channel close to the authorities said.

Mediators Egypt, Qatar and the United States hope to reach an agreement on a ceasefire that includes the release of hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners ahead of Ramadan, which begins early next week.

Hamas demands a final ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, which Israel rejects.

Abu Ubaydah, a spokesman for the movement's military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, said in a statement on Friday, “Our top priority to complete the prisoner exchange remains fully committed to stopping the occupation and the enemy's withdrawal.” upon it.”

Hamas demands the return of hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians and the start of reconstruction work in the Gaza Strip.

On the other hand, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Friday that “the ball is in Hamas's court” regarding agreeing to a ceasefire with Israel.

In the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian News Agency (Wafa) said, “A young freedman, Muhammad Adel al-Shalabi (40 years old), died on Friday as a result of being hit by Israeli occupation bullets. The town of Silat al-Harithiya, west of Jenin.

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