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Cyprus says Gaza maritime aid 'on track' as US details problems onshore

A US military picture taken on May 16, 2024 shows the temporary pier attached to the Gaza coast
— Nicosia (AFP)

Four ships from the United States and France are transporting aid from Larnaca port in Cyprus to the Gaza Strip amid the spiralling humanitarian crisis there, the Cyprus presidency said on Tuesday.

However a US Defence Department spokesman said that none of the 569 tonnes of humanitarian assistance that has arrived at a US-built pier in the besieged territory had been distributed to those in need.

Victor Papadopoulos from the presidential press office told state radio that 1,000 tonnes of aid were shipped from Cyprus to the besieged Palestinian territory between Friday and Sunday.

Papadopoulos said the vessels were shuttling between Gaza and the east Mediterranean island, a distance of about 360 kilometres (225 miles).

Large quantities of aid from Britain, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and other countries have accumulated at Larnaca port.

Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters on Tuesday the maritime aid effort was "on track".

"We have substantial assistance from third countries that want to contribute to this effort," he said.

The aid shipped from Cyprus is entering Gaza via a temporary US-built floating pier, where the shipments are offloaded for distribution.

Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told reporters that he did not believe any had been distributed to those in need.

While some of the aid coming off the pier has made it to warehouses, trucks have also reportedly been intercepted by crowds of desperate Palestinians after the aid leaves the loading area.

"I don't believe so," Ryder said in response to a question about whether any of the aid had been delivered yet.

"We fully appreciate and recognize that land routes are the optimal way to get aid," Ryder said. "It's also important to remember that this is a combat zone and that it is a complex operation."

The United Nations has warned of famine as Gaza's 2.4 million people face shortages of food, safe water, medicines and fuel amid the Israel-Hamas war that has devastated the coastal territory.

Aid deliveries by truck have slowed to a trickle since Israeli forces took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt in early May.

The war in Gaza broke out after Hamas's unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Two days after the war broke out, Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a "complete siege" on the Gaza Strip.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,647 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to figures provided by the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.