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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Chef helping send aid ships to Gaza calls for a cease-fire



Chef José Andrés, right, speaks with chef José Enrique at the José Enrique restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 18, 2017. Andrés mobilized a network of cooks, farmers and volunteers on the island days after Hurricane Maria, when food chains seemed paralyzed. Now the founder of the food charity sending aid vessels to the Gaza Strip is calling for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas. (Erika P. Rodríguez/The New York Times)

By Vivian Yee


As a second ship towing desperately needed aid prepared to depart for the Gaza Strip on Sunday, José Andrés, the founder of the food charity sending the vessels, called for a cease-fire and said that Israel should be doing more to prevent hunger in the territory.


“At the very least,” Andrés, the celebrity chef, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Israel should “make sure that nobody’s hungry and that nobody’s without food and water.”


“This is something that should be happening overnight,” he added. “But for political reasons, I guess it’s not happening there.”


Andrés said he hoped his group, World Central Kitchen, would be able to scale up its nascent effort and eventually bring “huge quantities of food daily into the shores of Gaza,” where United Nations officials have said 2.2 million people are on the brink of famine.


Although the Open Arms, the first ship dispatched by the group, attracted global attention in recent days, the maritime route is so far delivering just a tiny fraction of the aid that the U.N. says is needed to stave off famine. The Open Arms towed a barge to a makeshift jetty off Gaza on Friday with the equivalent of about 10 truckloads of food — far less than the 500 trucks a day aid groups say are needed.


Aid groups — including World Central Kitchen, which has sent more than 1,400 aid trucks into Gaza — have pleaded for Israel to allow more trucks in through more land crossings, saying that only a fast stream of trucks can sustain Gaza’s population.


But only about 150 trucks have been entering Gaza through the two open land crossings each day, according to U.N. data, because of several factors, including lengthy Israeli inspections to enforce stringent restrictions on what can enter Gaza.


The limitations at those entry points have set off a scramble for creative solutions among donors such as the European Union, which helped set up a maritime route from Cyprus to Gaza, and the United States, which has been airdropping aid and is leading an effort to build a temporary pier off Gaza’s coast to accommodate more deliveries by ship. White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that it would take six to eight weeks to complete construction.


So far, only World Central Kitchen, which Andrés founded after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, has successfully delivered aid directly to Gaza by ship. The first delivery consisted of about 200 tons of rice, flour and lentils, and canned tuna, chicken and beef.


The second, which was still anchored in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Sunday night, is set to bring food and equipment to help with future maritime deliveries.


Andrés on Sunday wondered aloud why Israel’s military was bombing buildings in Gaza that might house the hostages Israel says it wishes to see returned to safety. He also issued a plea for peace, saying he had seen great humanity on both sides of the conflict.


“The time I’ve spent in Israel, the time I’ve been spending in Gaza, seems everybody loves falafel and everybody loves hummus with equal intensity,” said Andrés, whose group has opened more than 60 community kitchens within Gaza to serve hot meals. “It makes you wonder how people that loves the same foods, they can be at odds with each other.”

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