Turkey sent thousands of tons of humanitarian aid, including rice, flour and toys, to Gaza on Saturday, days after reaching a deal to normalize relations with Israel.
A Turkish cargo ship docked in the southern Israeli port city of Ashdod on Sunday afternoon in accordance with the recent reconciliation agreement signed between Israel and Turkey.
The rapprochement and consequent aid to Gaza came as unemployment in the Palestinian strip has reached 43 percent, electricity is available for only eight to 12 hours a day, and water resources are drying up. Unless radical steps are taken, “it is not a question of if but rather when another escalation [eruption of violence] will take place,” warned Nickolay Mladenov, U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.
Turkey also intends to build a power plant, a desalination facility, a hospital and houses there. Israel is going along with these plans. It no longer seeks to topple Hamas, realizing that the alternatives to it are Islamic radicals or chaos.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been extremely sensitive to the situation in Gaza, which since 2007 has been governed by Hamas, a Muslim party like his own party, AKP. He was furious when Israel raided Gaza and when it forcibly foiled a 2010 attempt to break a maritime blockade of Gaza.
In that incident, Israeli marines stormed the Mavi Marmara aid ship, one of six civilian vessels trying to break the blockade, and killed 10 Turkish activists on board. Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and froze military cooperation after a 2011 U.N. report into the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara largely exonerated the Jewish state.
But there was a breakthrough this past Sunday after months of talks between the two countries. And by Monday, Turkey announced that a deal would be signed normalizing relations with Israel.