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Ships with a second round of aid for Gaza have departed Cyprus as concerns about hunger soar

JERUSALEM (AP) — A three-ship convoy left a Cyprus port Saturday with 400 tons of food and other supplies for Gaza as concerns about hunger in the territory soar.

World Central Kitchen said the ships and a barge were carrying ready-to-eat products like rice, pasta, flour, legumes, canned vegetables and proteins, enough to prepare more than a million meals. Also on board were dates, traditionally eaten to break the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

An Open Arms ship inaugurated the direct sea route to the Palestinian territory earlier this month with 200 tons of food, water and other aid.

The United Nations and its partners have warned that famine could occur as early as this month in devastated and largely isolated northern Gaza. Humanitarian officials say deliveries by sea and air are not enough and that Israel needs to allow much more aid by road. The UN’s top court has ordered Israel to open more land crossings and take other measures to tackle the humanitarian crisis.

At the same time, the United States welcomed the formation of a new Palestinian self-rule government, indicating that it accepted the revised Cabinet composition as a step toward political reform.

The Biden administration has called for “revitalizing” the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in hopes that it can also administer the Gaza Strip once the war between Israel and Hamas ends. It is led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who named Mohammad Mustafa, a US-trained economist, as prime minister earlier this month.

But Israel and Hamas – which drove Abbas’s security forces from Gaza in a 2007 takeover – reject the idea that they administer Gaza, and Hamas rejects the formation of the new Palestinian government as illegitimate. The authority also enjoys little popular support or legitimacy among Palestinians because of its security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank.

The war began after Hamas-led militants stormed southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 others hostage.

More than 400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers in the West Bank or East Jerusalem since October 7, according to local health authorities. Dr. Fawaz Hamad, director of Al-Razi Hospital in Jenin, told local channel Awda TV that Israeli forces killed a 13-year-old boy in nearby Qabatiya early Saturday. The Israeli military said the incident was being investigated.

A major challenge for anyone administering Gaza will be reconstruction. Nearly six months of war have destroyed critical infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and homes, as well as roads, sewage systems and the electricity grid.

Airstrikes and the Israeli ground offensive have left 32,705 Palestinians dead, local health authorities said Saturday, and 82 bodies were taken to hospitals in the past 24 hours. Gaza’s health ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its toll, but said the majority of those killed were women and children.

Israel says more than a third of the deaths are militants, although it has not provided supporting evidence, and accuses Hamas of being responsible for civilian casualties because the group operates in residential areas.

The fighting has displaced more than 80% of Gaza’s population and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine, according to the UN and international aid agencies. The Israeli military said it continued to strike dozens of targets in Gaza, days after the United Nations Security Council issued its first ceasefire request.

Aid also fell on Gaza. The US military, in an airdrop on Friday, said it had released more than 100,000 pounds of aid that day and nearly 1 million pounds in total, as part of a multi-country effort .

Israel has said that after the war it will maintain unrestricted security control over Gaza and partner with Palestinians who are not affiliated with the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. It is not clear who in Gaza would be willing to take on such a role.

Hamas has warned Palestinians in Gaza against cooperating with Israel to administer the territory, saying anyone who does so will be treated as a collaborator, which is understood as a death threat. Hamas is instead calling on all Palestinian factions to form a power-sharing government before national elections, which have not been held in 18 years.

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Associated Press writer Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed to this report.

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See more AP war coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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