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Gaza Aid Corridor Through Cyprus Could Open by Sunday

Protesters block the path for humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip at the Nitzana border crossing with Egypt in southern Israel, Feb. 2, 2024.
Protesters block the path for humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza Strip at the Nitzana border crossing with Egypt in southern Israel, Feb. 2, 2024.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said Friday an initiative to get aid into Gaza through a Cyprus maritime port — outlined Thursday night by President Joe Biden in his State of the Union speech — could be up and running by Sunday, if not sooner.

Speaking at a joint news conference Friday with Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides in Cyprus, Von der Leyen said the corridor was very close to opening, and could be operational Sunday, and perhaps as early as Saturday, with an initial pilot launched Friday.

In his annual State of the Union address to Congress, President Biden said the U.S. military would "lead an emergency mission to establish a temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the coast of Gaza that can receive large shipments carrying food, water medicine and temporary shelters."

A joint statement issued Friday from the European Commission, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the Republic of Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States formally announced plans to open the corridor.

“This maritime corridor can — and must — be part of a sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian aid and commercial commodities into Gaza through all possible routes,” the statement reads. “We will continue to work with Israel to expand deliveries by land, insisting that it facilitate more routes and open additional crossings to get more aid to more people.

In a background briefing Thursday, a senior administration official told reporters the main feature of the port is a temporary pier that will provide capacity for hundreds of additional truckloads of assistance each day, with initial shipments coming via Cyprus with support of the U.S. military and a coalition of partners and allies.

The official said the U.S. will coordinate with the Israelis on the security requirements on land and work with the U.N. and humanitarian NGOs on the distribution of assistance within Gaza.

The official said the operation will take “a number of weeks” to plan and execute. “The forces that will be required to complete this mission are either already in the region or will begin to move there soon.”

The official noted there will be no American boots on the ground in Gaza. Instead, the U.S. military will employ its “unique capabilities” to establish the facilities from offshore.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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