The Cypriot initiative for a sea corridor and the transfer of humanitarian aid from Cyprus to Gaza “can begin immediately”, outgoing Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Tel Aviv’s 103 FM radio station on Sunday. However, he also referred to the technical difficulties of the endeavour, particularly in relation to the lack of adequate port facilities on the Gaza coast, ruling out any Israeli involvement in the channelling of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian enclave, while stressing the need for prior security checks to be carried out by special Israeli teams.
Cohen said that the countries already supporting the Cypriot initiative, such as Greece, Britain, France and the Netherlands, have at their disposal ships technically able to reach the Gaza coast under the present adverse conditions, commenting that if they so wished, they could proceed without using Israel as a stopover. “They requested of us that the equipment come via (the Israeli port of) Ashdod. The answer is no. It won’t come via Ashdod, it won’t come via Israel. We want disengagement, with security control. That’s the goal of this process,” Cohen said.
According to Reuters, there was no immediate response from London, Paris, Athens or Amsterdam, noting that Greece and Britain have repeatedly expressed their support for the Cypriot initiative.
During the interview, Eli Cohen said that at the moment the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is in force, which has been in place since the 2007 takeover by Hamas. However, Cohen clarified that ” if such an (aid) ship comes from Larnaca, it will be with our approval,” adding that “it will of course be a secured corridor, as we have no intention of endangering a British or French ship coming in coordination with us.”
Several European and Arab donor countries have been sending aid to Gaza through the nearby Egyptian coastal town of Al Arish to the Mediterranean coast of the Sinai Peninsula, where Israeli security teams checked the material they were carrying, Reuters reported, adding that it was followed by transporting the material by road, to the Rafah outpost and then to the Gaza Strip.
Eli Cohen will end his tenure at the Foreign Ministry in the coming days, as decided this morning by the Israeli cabinet, in implementation of the agreement to form a government, which was established on 27 December 2022. The ministerial rotation clause stipulates that Eli Cohen will be succeeded at the Foreign Ministry by the current Minister of Energy, Israel Katz, who will remain at the Foreign Ministry for the next two years. Accordingly, Eli Cohen will take over the Energy Ministry for the same period of time, and will return to the Foreign Ministry at the beginning of 2026, the fourth and final year of the current Netanyahu government.
Two weeks ago, Eli Cohen travelled to Cyprus and visited with his Cypriot counterpart, Constantinos Kombos, the “Zenon” Operations Centre in Larnaca, in order to examine on the spot the security screening process for humanitarian material departing from the port of Larnaca bound for Gaza.
According to a recent report in “Israel Hayom”, due to the lack of suitable docking facilities in Gaza, the use of the Al-Mawashi neighbourhood anchorage, a port in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, is reportedly being discussed, although this information has not yet been officially confirmed by Israeli government or military sources.