In accordance with the reconciliation agreement signed between the two countries, the first Turkish ship, Lady Leyla, arrived in Israel yesterday carrying 10,000 tonnes of goods for the Gaza Strip including food, medication and toys. The ship will first undergo security checks to ensure that no illicit equipment falls into the hands of Hamas in Gaza. It will then be taken to the Kerem Shalom border crossing, where around 900 truckloads of goods enter Gaza from Israel daily.
The deal with Turkey, which was approved by the Israeli Security Cabinet last week, ended six years of animosity and paved the way for the arrival of the aid ship. However, there have been protests from the families of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, whose bodies are being held by Hamas in Gaza following their deaths in Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The families say that aid to Gaza should be conditional on the return of the soldiers’ bodies.
The two once close regional allies, fell out after a deadly confrontation in May 2010 between Israeli commandos and Turkish activists on a passenger vessel seeking to breach Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
In May 2010, Israeli commandos intercepted the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in a flotilla dispatched to Gaza by the Turkish Islamist-linked relief agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). The commandos were violently attacked by those on board, with several soldiers seriously injured. Nine Turkish citizens were killed when the commandos opened fire in what Israel said was self-defence, and one more died last year from injuries sustained in the incident.
Under the agreement, the deal will involve full restoration of diplomatic ties and return of ambassadors after a five-year freeze. Turkey will deliver humanitarian aid and non-military supplies to Gaza while making infrastructure investments, according to a senior Turkish official. This will include plans to build a 200-bed hospital in Gaza while increasing the supply of electricity and drinking water.
In addition, Turkey has agreed to end all claims against Israeli military personnel and the State of Israel as a result of the Israeli raid, Israeli officials said. Under the agreement however, Hamas offices may continue to operate in Turkey for the purpose of diplomatic activity and its leader Khaled Mashal will remain there.
Hamas is a terrorist organisation and it was in Turkey that senior Hamas operatives masterminded the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers that triggered the 2014 Operation Protective Edge conflict in Gaza. Turkey’s ruling Islamist AKP government has been accused of harbouring Hamas terrorists by allowing them to mastermind attacks from the group’s Istanbul headquarters.