Turkish Ship With Humanitarian Aid for Gaza Strip Docks in Israeli Port

Families of fallen and missing Israelis vow to block transfer of aid to Gaza in protest at the failure of the Israel-Turkey agreement to deal with the return of their sons.

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 Turkish cargo ship bearing 10,000 tons of humanitarian equipment and food destined for the Gaza Strip docked in the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod on Sunday afternoon in accordance with the recent reconciliation agreement signed between Israel and Turkey.

Israel and Turkey last week agreed to normalize relations after six years of diplomatic standoff between the two states. In terms of the agreement, Turkey is able to send aid to Gaza via Israel.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced last Monday that the ship would set sail on Friday, carrying 20,000 tons of aid. Yildirim also said that the agreement with Israel reflects Turkey's role as protector of oppressed peoples in the Middle East.

Herzl, Oron Shaul's father, at the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza, July 3, 2016.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The family of Oron Shaul, an Israeli soldier whose body is being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, arrived at the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Sunday morning, planning to block the transfer of the ship's cargo to Gaza. 

The family, along with the families of other Israelis missing in Gaza and families of soldiers who died in 2014's Operation Protective Edge, opposed the agreement with Turkey because it did not include the return of missing Israelis.

"My son has been here, just over this fence, for two years already," said Zehava Shaul, Oron's mother. "Two years in which we didn't open our mouths and sat in silence."

She criticized the Israeli government for allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza but neglecting the humanitarian problem of returning the missing to their families.

"We aren't opposed to this agreement," Herzl Shaul, Oron's father. "But it is a terrible deal for the families. Our boys are not mentioned in it. This is a prize to Hamas and a loss for Israel. The prime minister got two years of silence with countless promises that he would see to it that the boys would be returned home."

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.