Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Sunday aid delivered via a planned maritime route would go “to those who need it” in Gaza, where famine looms after five months of war.

Gallant travelled to the “shores of Gaza” on a military boat to inspect “preparations being made for the construction of a sea dock” that would receive humanitarian shipments, he said on social media platform X.

Humanitarian workers and UN officials have said easing overland access of aid trucks into the Gaza Strip would be more effective than maritime shipments or airdrops to alleviate the dire crisis in the besieged territory.

A charity ship meanwhile prepared to sail from the Mediterranean island-nation of Cyprus, the first delivery along a maritime corridor that would be bolstered by a “temporary pier” off Gaza announced by US President Joe Biden.

It was not immediately clear whether Gallant was referring to the same pier, which US officials have said would take up to two months to establish.

“We will make sure that the aid goes to those who need it, and not to those who do not,” Gallant said without elaborating on the planned distribution mechanism once aid does make it into Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The minister argued the sea corridor would also advance “the collapse” of the Palestinian militant group whose October 7 attack on Israel triggered the ongoing war.

“The naval aid will help to achieve one of the main goals of the war: the collapse of Hamas rule,” said Gallant, whose government has faced calls from Israeli protesters demaning a complete halt to Gaza aid.

Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory military campaign has killed at least 31,045 people in Gaza, the majority women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Aid groups say only a fraction of the supplies required to meet basic humanitarian needs have been allowed into Gaza since October.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Friday announced the new maritime corridor to Gaza which she said would open by Sunday, though no vessels have yet to make it across and some details of the operation remained unclear.

The Gaza health ministry says at least 20 children have died from malnutrition and dehydration, as some residents have resorted to eating leaves and animal fodder.

The situation is particularly acute in northern Gaza, where no land crossings have been open for aid trucks.

Mediators had hoped to secure a new truce in the war by the start of the fasting month of Ramadan on Monday, but each side has blamed the other for failing to reach a deal.

In southern Gaza on Sunday, residents told AFP they were eager for aid to arrive.

“I’ve been waiting since this morning… the situation is very tragic,” Mohammed Harara said.

“They said there was a boat with humanitarian aid and that people would be able to eat,” said Mohammed Abu Baid, a displaced resident of Gaza City.

“We won’t believe it until we see it.”

With AFP