A Turkish ship carrying aid for Gaza has arrived in Israel, a week after Turkey and Israel agreed to restore ties that soured over a deadly raid on an aid flotilla in 2010.
The Panama-flagged Lady Leyla container vessel docked at Ashdod port on Sunday afternoon after departing on Friday.
Its contents were to be unloaded, inspected and sent to the Gaza Strip which is under an Israeli blockade and has been hit by three wars with Israel since 2008.
The ship was carrying 11,000 tonnes of supplies including food packages, flour, rice, sugar and toys, the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported. The aid is expected to reach Gaza in a few days.
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Turkey had initially pushed for a lifting of Israel’s blockade on 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 Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules Gaza, 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.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Gaza on Tuesday, called the blockade “collective punishment”.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party has friendly ties with Hamas, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan 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 an aid flotilla seeking to break the blockade on Gaza.
Under a reconciliation deal struck last week, Israel will pay $20m in compensation to the families of those killed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promoted the economic benefits of restoring ties, with talk of building a pipeline to Turkey to export natural gas, and the need to find allies in the turbulent Middle East.
“This small amount of aid coming from Turkey is highly appreciated, but the most important thing for Gazans is freedom, hope and a new process to end the suffering of two million Palestinians,” Amjad al-Shawa, the director of the Palestinian Non-Governmental Network, told Al Jazeera from Gaza City.
“We expect Turkey to pressure Israel – through its new restored relations – to respect international humanitarian law and to lift this inhumane blockade.”
Families of four Israeli soldiers declared killed or missing in Gaza protested that the Turkish-Israeli deal did not mandate their loved ones be returned to Israel.
Several relatives and supporters of the soldiers’ families protested against the deal outside Ashdod port on Sunday.
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