Gaza receives first Turkish aid shipment after Israel-Turkey deal

GAZA (Reuters) - Turkish aid shipments arrived in the Gaza Strip via Israel on Monday, a week after Israel and Turkey announced they would end a six-year rupture and normalize ties.

About 11,000 tonnes of cargo, including clothing, toys and medicines destined for the Palestinian coastal territory, were ferried to the Israeli port of Ashdod by a Turkish ship that docked on Sunday.

Under the supervision of the Turkish Red Crescent Society, the first of about 500 trucks carrying the aid entered the Gaza Strip, territory controlled by Hamas Islamists, through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, witnesses said.

Relations between Israel and Turkey crumbled after Israeli marines stormed a Turkish ship in May 2010 challenging Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed 10 Turkish activists during fighting on board.

Last week’s rare rapprochement in the divided Middle East was driven by the prospect of lucrative Mediterranean gas deals as well as mutual concern over growing security risks, and included an Israeli pledge to enable Turkey to send aid to Gaza.

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“This is the first (aid) ship after the Turkish and the Israeli governments’ agreement,” said Kerem Kinik, president of the Turkish Red Crescent, who traveled to Gaza to supervise the distribution of the goods.

He said Turkey would provide “continuous, regular humanitarian assistance” for the territory.

Last week, some 3,400 trucks carrying 107,500 tonnes of goods, including medical supplies, electronic devices, consumer goods and construction material, entered the Gaza Strip via Israel, according to Israeli authorities.

Gaza merchants can import commercial goods from Israel and elsewhere but Israel restricts the entry into the territory of so-called dual-use items, saying they can be used to make weapons and build fortifications.

Egypt, which is at odds with Hamas, keeps its border with Gaza largely closed.

Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Janet Lawrence