Middle EastAnalysis

Maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza set to open this weekend

Pilot project will have to survive, maintain and expand food deliveries until the US sets up a temporary pier

A maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza set to open this weekend is the second best option for providing food, water and medicine for hungry, ailing, and homeless Palestinians trapped in the narrow coastal strip.

The launch of the sea link to coincide with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan will boost morale among desperate families. They have reduced or missed meals or relied on animal feed for making bread and wild herbs to stave off starvation which has already killed 17 children, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Details of the pilot project were unveiled by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Cypriot president Nikos Christodoulides in the port town of Larnaca on Friday.

Organisers of the scheme and Gazans will both be tested by what happens once the first trial shipment approaches Gaza. Hopes will be dashed if Israel spurns the first ship carrying precious food, or if starving Gazans hijack landed supplies that have been loaded on to lorries for distribution. Maritime deliveries, like those by land, depend on Israeli good will, security, and organised distribution after entering Gaza. Nothing is certain.


The pilot project will have to survive, maintain and expand food deliveries until the US sets up a temporary pier, announced by president Joe Biden in his State of the Union address, that could exponentially increase the volume of aid reaching Gaza to make up for a deadly deficit in land deliveries. The pier is essential as Gaza has no deepwater port. However, it is expected to take several weeks to become operational. This is too long for hungry Gazans who do not have weeks to survive.

As Biden said there would be no US troops on the ground it is not clear who will provide transport, security and distribution.

The best option for delivery of aid is on land by lorry thorough Egypt’s Rafah terminal or Israel’s Kerem Shalom, which had a pre-crisis daily capacity of 500 trucks carrying food, medicine and consumer goods. However, Israeli restrictions on entry, time-consuming inspections and random bans on various goods have shrunk life-saving supplies. The World Food Programme reported the number of lorries carrying only food had fallen from 150 daily between January and September 2023, to 59 daily between October 7th and January 24th of this year.

The worst option for aid delivery is air-dropping ready-to-eat meals on to Gaza’s beaches where parcels are grabbed by anyone who can defend his catch.

The maritime corridor was initially proposed and acted upon by Christodoulides last November. A British naval ship carrying 80 tonnes of aid was turned away by Israel, which had initially approved the mission. The ship sailed to Malta and waited until it was given clearance to unload at Al-Arish in Egypt and the aid was transported by truck to Rafah to join long lines waiting to enter Gaza.

United Nations co-ordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag summed up the situation, “Air or sea is not a substitute for what we need to see arrive [by] land.”