First Gaza aid ship leaves Cyprus port

Open Arms: First aid ship sets sail for Gaza after delays

LARNACA, Cyprus — After weeks of preparation, detailed Israeli inspections and repeated delays, an aid ship carrying food left from the port of Larnaca in Cyprus this morning bound for Gaza. 

The ship, named Open Arms after the Spanish nongovernment organization that owns it, set sail on the mission run by the U.S.-based charity World Central Kitchen, which hopes it will pave the way for a new maritime aid corridor.

It’s only about 200 miles from Cyprus to Gaza — but because the vessel is towing a barge loaded with rice, flour, beans and canned meat and fish, it will travel about 3 miles an hour. The journey is expected to take days.

With so much desperation inside the enclave, aid trucks have been overrun and air drops, which have limited capacity, turned deadly last week. Medical officials said last week that five people had been crushed to death by pallets of food.

Hezbollah fires dozens of rockets at Israel after IDF jets strike deep into Lebanon

The Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group said today that it had fired more than 100 Katyusha rockets at several northern Israeli military posts in response to Israeli strikes of the Beqaa Valley region the previous night.

The Israeli military said no “damage or casualties were immediately reported,” after it detected “approximately 100 rocket launches” from Lebanon.  

In a separate statement, the IDF confirmed that its fighter jets had struck two Hezbollah sites in the Beqaa Valley, which lies deep in Lebanon’s center.

“The sites belong to Hezbollah’s aerial forces that planned and carried out various attacks against the State of Israel,” the statement said.

Houthi rebels fired missiles at container ship, CENTCOM says

Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles at a Liberian-flagged container ship in the Red Sea but did not hit the vessel, U.S. Central Command said today.

Yahya Sarea, a spokesperson for the group, had earlier said the group had hit the Pinocchio, which he called “American.”

But according to shipping databases operated by Equasis and the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO), it is a Liberian-flagged container ship owned by Singapore-registered company OM-MAR 5 INC.

The incident came after CENTCOM said it conducted six self-defense strikes on Houthi controlled areas of Yemen yesterday. An unmanned underwater vessel and 18 anti-ship missiles were destroyed, CENTCOM said, adding that they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region.

Gaza aid ship sets sail from Cypus port

An Open Arms aid vessel, pictured here in the Cypriot port of Larnaca yesterday, has set sail this morning for Gaza.

The ship is carrying 200 tons of food aid provided by World Central Kitchen as part of a pilot project to open a new maritime humanitarian corridor.

A Cyprus government spokesman said a Spanish charity ship with food aid was set to sail from the island within hours to the coastal Gaza Strip.
Iakovos Hatzistavrou / AFP via Getty Images

Rising concerns over tensions in East Jerusalem as Ramadan begins with no cease-fire in sight

JERUSALEM — The sun was shining over the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City today as the first full day of Ramadan began — but with no cease-fire in sight, the war in Gaza cast a heavy shadow over the start of the holy month, with fears of tensions rising around the revered Al-Aqsa mosque.

Israeli border police patrolled the streets of the Old City’s Muslim quarter — an area that is usually bustling with people and adorned with lights, lanterns and decorations during Ramadan.

Image: Ramadan Begins Amid Fears Of Rising Tensions In Jerusalem
A Muslim man prays during the first night of Ramadan in Jerusalem’s Muslim quarter.Amir Levy / Getty Images

It was markedly quiet today, with no signs of celebration as small groups of worshippers made their way to Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest site in Islam, for noon prayers.

For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is “the most important month for us,” shopkeeper Jamil Halwani said. But this year, he said, the usual “joy of Ramadan,” a time of fasting, prayer, service, introspection and gathering, was absent.

Read the full story here.