A day after President Joe Biden announced plans for building a maritime aid corridor in Gaza, the European Commission on Friday said that a corridor would start operating between Cyprus and Gaza this weekend. 

Amid intensifying attacks and fear of famine looming over Gazans, the United Nations had urged the world powers to unite to supply more aid and save millions of people living under vulnerable conditions.

European Commission’s chief Ursula von der Leyen said a pilot test run of food aid collected by a charity group and supported by the United Arab Emirates could be leaving Cyprus as early as Friday. 

“We are launching this Cyprus maritime corridor together, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States,” she said after visiting facilities in Larnaca, Cyprus.

“We are now very close to opening this corridor, hopefully, this Saturday-Sunday and I’m very glad to see an initial pilot will be launched today,” she added. 

Meanwhile, the maritime corridor was welcomed by Israel’s foreign ministry. Israel urged other countries to join it. It also added that the aid would be delivered only after security checks were carried out “by Israeli standards”. 

On Thursday, Biden said the US military would construct a “temporary pier” to transport supplies from ships at sea to the shore on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast. However, the officials had said that the setting up of such a facility would take a few weeks. 

“Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip,” said Biden.

A joint statement from the European Commission, Cyprus, the US, UK and UAE said operating a sea corridor would be “complex”. “Protecting civilian lives is a key element of international humanitarian law that must be respected,” the statement said. 

Cyprus is the closest EU member state to Gaza, around 370 km away. Leyen said that the EU member states, the UAE, the US and the other partners are working together on the project. 

“As the EU member at the heart of the region, Cyprus bears a moral duty to do its utmost … leveraging its role and excellent relations with all countries in the region,” said President Nikos Christodoulides.

The UN has warned that at least 5,76,000 people in Gaza are on the brink of famine. 

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