July 1, 2010 / 5:29 PM / 9 years ago

U.N. starts distributing flotilla aid in Gaza Strip

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations has begun handing out humanitarian aid that was on a Gaza Strip-bound Turkish flotilla hit by a deadly Israeli commando raid last month, the U.N. press office said on Thursday.

“The first truckloads of the Turkish flotilla cargo entered Gaza yesterday,” it said in a statement.

“The United Nations is working on distributing those goods to appropriate beneficiaries,” it said. “The rest of the cargo is scheduled to enter Gaza in the weeks ahead.”

Israeli commandos boarded ships in the flotilla as it headed toward the Gaza Strip on May 31. Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists on one of the vessels were killed.

The ships and cargo were taken to an Israeli port and the aid is being taken to Gaza overland.

Under pressure to investigate the incident, Israel launched an inquiry with two international observers. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is pushing for a separate U.N. investigation with both Israeli and Turkish participation.

The flotilla incident soured Israel’s strategic ties with Turkey, an important Islamic ally which has since recalled its ambassador and canceled joint military exercises.

Israel says its blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent weapons from reaching Islamist militants. It says pro-Palestinian activists assaulted the commandos with knives, metal bars and clubs when they boarded one of the vessels.

In response to Western criticism, including from its biggest ally the United States, Israel has since eased a land blockade of Gaza where 1.5 million Palestinians live, allowing most civilian goods through, while continuing to enforce a naval embargo along the coast.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by David Storey

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