Turkish aid reaches Gaza after deal with Israel
GAZA CITY - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoTurkish aid arrived in the Gaza Strip on July 4 via Israel, after the two countries restored ties frozen over a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship in 2010.
Turkish and Palestinian officials welcomed 10 truckloads of supplies, including food parcels, toys and children's clothing and shoes as they reached the impoverished territory in time for the Muslim Eid celebrations on July 6 marking the end of Ramadan fasting.
"These are the first Turkish aid trucks into Gaza," Mustafa Sarnic, Turkey's ambassador to the Palestinian Authority, told a press conference near the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel.
"Turkey will continue its efforts to help the residents of the Gaza Strip and to help solve the water and power crisis."
The Panama-flagged Lady Leyla container ship docked at southern Israel's Ashdod port on July 3 after sailing from Turkey.
Its contents were unloaded, inspected and sent on to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, hit by three wars with Israel since 2008 and under an Israeli blockade.
Youssef Ibrahim, the Hamas deputy minister of social affairs, said the 11,000-tonne shipment would be distributed to those most in need by his ministry along with the Turkish and Palestinian Red Crescent societies.
It was due to be the first of many, he added.
"These 10 trucks are part of 400 trucks of Turkish aid for Gaza."
Turkey had initially pushed for a lifting of Israel's years-long blockade of Gaza as part of the negotiations to normalise ties, but Israel rejected this.
A compromise was eventually reached allowing Turkey to send aid through Ashdod rather than directly to the Palestinian enclave.
Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Islamist movement Hamas from receiving materials that could be used for military purposes.
But UN officials have called for it to be lifted, citing deteriorating conditions in the territory.
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has friendly ties with Gaza's Hamas rulers, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Turkey and Israel were formerly close regional allies, but fell out in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists in a raid on a flotilla seeking to run the blockade.
Under the reconciliation deal, Israel will pay $20 million in compensation to the families of those killed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promoted the economic benefits of restoring ties, with talk of building a pipeline to Turkey to export Israeli gas, and the need to find allies in the turbulent Middle East.