March 27, 2014 / 1:15 PM / 5 years ago

Israel to allow materials into Gaza for Turkish hospital

Moshe Yaalon attends a Likud-Beiteinu party meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem March 14, 2013. REUTERS/Nir Elias

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Thursday it will allow into the Gaza Strip construction materials and electric equipment to help build a Turkish-sponsored hospital, in a possible sign of improving ties with Ankara.

The decision came as Israel and Turkey try to hammer out the details of a U.S.-backed reconciliation announced a year ago. Relations between the once-close allies ruptured in 2010 over a deadly Israeli naval raid on a Turkish Gaza-bound flotilla.

Gaza, ruled by the Islamist group Hamas, lacks much basic civil infrastructure and lives under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade meant to cut off arms flows but which also curbs imports of fuel and building supplies.

Turkey began constructing the hospital in 2011 using materials smuggled into the territory through tunnels and this is first time Israel has let any in for the project.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon approved the request from Turkey, his ministry said in a statement, and an Israeli official, who asked not to be named, said the reconciliation efforts played a part in his decision.

Once completed, the hospital will be jointly run by Palestinian and Turkish doctors.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mugrabi and Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Alison Williams

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