Middle East

Turkey sends Gaza aid after six-year rift with Israel ends

Man in Turkish Red Crescent shirt watching Lady Leyla ship unload Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Turkish aid will be transported via Israel to the Gaza Strip

A Turkish ship carrying 11,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid for Gaza has arrived in the Israeli port of Ashdod.

It is the first such shipment since 2010, when 10 pro-Palestinian Turkish activists in a flotilla were killed in clashes with Israeli commandos.

The vessels were trying to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The incident caused a rift between the two countries, but they agreed to restore relations in a deal that was signed last week.

The Lady Leyla ship was carrying food, clothing and toys intended to arrive in Gaza in time for Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan.

It has been unloaded at Ashdod and the aid donations will be transported overland through Israel to Gaza.

Israel and Turkey end six-year rift

Why did Israel stop the 2010 Gaza flotilla?

Speaking on Sunday, Israeli spokesperson Oren Rosenblatt said: "This is an immediate implementation of the agreement between Israel and Turkey.

"There is a special effort by the Israeli government to speed up the process in order that some of the goods will be delivered tomorrow to Gaza before the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr."

Part of the deal agreed on 27 June was that Israel would allow Turkey to send aid to Gaza and carry out infrastructure projects there.

The two countries will appoint ambassadors and restore diplomatic ties.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Israel had also agreed to pay $20m (£15m) in compensation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the agreement would help bring "stability" to the Middle East.

Correspondents say Israel and Turkey have strong diplomatic, strategic and economic reasons for healing the rift but are unlikely to rebuild the warmth their relationship held when they were key strategic partners.

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006 after the Palestinian group Hamas, which runs the territory, abducted an Israeli soldier. The measures were tightened by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas ousted its rival Fatah and forcibly took control in Gaza after winning elections the year before.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas receiving materials that could be used for military purposes, but the UN has long been critical of it.

Last week Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "collective punishment for which there must be accountability".

Image copyright AFP