Turkey Sends Second Aid Ship to Gaza Since Reconciliation With Israel

Cargo includes regular humanitarian equipment and food products, along with 1,000 bicycles for Palestinian children, Turkish official says.

A picture taken on July 1, 2016 shows the Panama flagged ship Lady Leyla setting off from the southern Turkish port of Mersin bound for Ashdod.
Huseyin Kar, AFP

A ship carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip departed from the Turkish port of Mersin on Friday, the second Turkish aid shipment since a reconciliation deal with Israel was reached in June.

The ship, which is carrying humanitarian equipment and food products, is bound for the Israeli port of Ashdod, where its cargo will be unloaded and transferred to the Strip by trucks through Erez Crossing.

A senior official at Turkey's Presidential Palace said the items are expected to reach Gaza before the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. In addition to the aid materials, the shipment also includes 1,000 bicycles, to be distributed as presents for the holiday to Palestinian children, the official added. 

Israel and Turkey agreed in June to normalize relations after six years of diplomatic standoff between the two states. Last week, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erodogan signed a bill, putting the deal with Israel into effectIn terms of the agreement, Turkey is able to send aid to Gaza via Israel. The first aid shipment reached Ashdod in July.

About 80 percent of Gaza residents rely on humanitarian aid, according to Oxfam. 

The aid shipments to Gaza have come under fire in Israel by the families of several soldiers whose bodies are held by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group which controls the Strip. The families have criticized the Israeli government for allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza but neglecting the humanitarian problem of returning the missing to their families.

The issue of the missing soldier's bodies was not part of the final agreement between Turkey and Israel, though Turkey issued a separate "letter of goodwill" in which it promised to work with Hamas for the release of the missing Israelis.