Turkey has sent food, medicine and clothes to Gaza via the Israeli port of Ashdod, as part of its rapprochement with Israel. The move comes six years after a deadly raid by Israeli commandos on another Turkish aid ship.
A Turkish cargo ship carrying more than 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid bound for the Gaza strip has docked at an Israeli port 40 km (25 miles) to the north.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu (news) agency said the vessel, Lady Leyla, arrived at the Israeli port in Ashdod on Sunday, 35 hours after leaving the Turkish port city of Mersin.
The ship is carrying food, medicine, clothes and toys, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority.
“The ship is docking these very moments,” a spokesman for the Ashdod Port, Yigal Ben Zikry, said earlier on Sunday.
The aid delivery marks a return to normalized relations between Turkey and Israel, which were ruptured in 2010.
Back then Israel had imposed an all-out naval blockade of Gaza, but a Turkish aid ship sought to breach the blockade. The results proved deadly as Israeli forces stormed the vessel, killing nine on board.
Eight of those killed were Turkish nationals. The ninth victim was an American with Turkish ancestry.
The countries severed diplomatic relations after the incident.
Turkey and Israel reconcile
Aid for the 1.9 million Palestinians in the poverty stricken enclave is part of a reconciliation deal signed between Turkey and Israel last week.
Months of negotiations between the two sides led to the agreement, which included compensation for the victims of the Israeli raid.
Tel Aviv will contribute $20 million (18 million euros) to a victim’s fund for those killed in the so-called Mavi Marmara affair – the name of the ship that Israeli forces raided.
In return, Ankara will drop criminal charges against the Israeli soldiers involved in the raid.
Israel rejected Turkey’s main demand – easy access to the Gaza strip – but Israel has agreed to allow aid shipments to Hamas-run Gaza, as long as they first pass through the Ashdod port for inspection.
Turkey will also be allowed to build a hospital, power plant and water desalinization plant in Gaza.
A small number of Israelis protested the shipments outside the port. They are supporters of two Israeli soldiers who were killed in the 2014 Gaza war. The Islamist Hamas government has kept the soldiers’ remains, and the Israelis want them back.
They blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for going ahead with the reconciliation, and allowing the aid shipments without getting the return of the bodies.
Sunday’s delivery comes before the start of one of Islam’s major holidays – Eid al-Fitr.
bik/bk (AP, dpa)