(WASHINGTON) — The European Union announced on Friday the launch of the Cyprus Maritime Corridor, a naval route facilitated by Europe’s most southeastern island, Cyprus, to deliver aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that the corridor is a direct response to the dire conditions of civilians in Gaza, where the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children declared a severe humanitarian emergency that is worsening by the day as the siege and military attacks from Israel continue.


An initial pilot operation launched on Friday in partnership with the World Central Kitchen and the corridor should officially begin to operate on Sunday, according to von der Leyen.

The World Central Kitchen, led by Chef Jose Andres, has served more than 33 million meals since October, and operates over 60 community kitchens in Gaza with the help of 400 Palestinians on the ground. A spokesperson for WCK told ABC News it equipped the boat departing Cyprus with 200 tons of rice, flour and proteins, and prepared another 500 tons of aid ready to follow.

The initiative was made possible by the United Arab Emirates and the United States support to the EU, with Cyprus proving, once again, its historical role as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East after the Amalthea initiative — which outlines a mechanism for securely shipping aid from Cyprus to Gaza via sea.


“The Middle East is a crucial neighbor where Europe’s role and leadership are required,” said Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides at a presser Friday morning, who added that the war is a direct concern for Europeans and that a spillover would be “catastrophic.”

“We are at the point where we simply have to unlock all the possible routes,” President Christodoulides explained, adding that he hopes that the CMC will be “a sustained, long-term maritime lifeline for the civilians in Gaza.”

“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 White House said in a statement about the initiative.


“The Maritime corridor can make a real difference in the plight of Palestinian people,” von der Leyen said at the announcement of the Corridor. “But in parallel, our efforts to provide assistance to Palestinians in all possible routes of course will continue.”

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the initiative with a statement shared on X, “The Cypriot initiative will allow the increase of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, after security checks are carried out in accordance with Israeli standards.”

At least 20 people have died from malnutrition and dehydration at the north’s Kamal Adwan and Shifa hospitals, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health, including children and a 72-year-old man.


They are among the more than 30,000 killed by the wide-scale attacks carried out by Israel in response to the Oct. 7 terror attack by Hamas that left over 1,200 dead and 130 victims kidnapped and held hostage.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.