Turkey resumes sending aid to Gaza following landmark reconciliation with Israel
After a landmark reconciliation between Israel and Turkey, residents of the Gaza Strip are once again receiving Turkish humanitarian aid. Ties between Israel and Turkey were severed over Israel’s deadly attack on a Turkish aid flotilla that had sought to defy Israel’s blockade in 2010. But as FSRN’s Rami Almeghari reports, the people of Gaza say they need more than humanitarian assistance to survive.
After five years of Israel blocking Turkey from sending supplies, a ship arrived this month in the Israeli port of Ashdod and its cargo was trucked into Gaza.
Arrival of the aid was greeted with official fanfare in Gaza.
Fatih Aytekin, of the Turkish Red Crescent, promised this volume of assistance – 11 tons – would continue every three months.
“Now we are examining the needs of the people of Gaza. If we actually can identify the usual needs, we will try to make it as much as it is, or more than this,” Aytekin explains, “The second ship, we’ll try to bring it here before the [Aladha Muslim] Eid, if we can. We are planning to bring the second ship before the Eid.”
Turkey has delivered basic foodstuffs: flour, sugar, cooking oil, canned foods, sweets and diapers. All of this was welcomed by Hamas government officials like Yousef Ibrahim, deputy minister of social affairs in Gaza.
”This is a humanitarian message to the countries of the world: all nations should intervene in the same way, to relieve the people of Gaza, which has been victim of a siege for nearly a decade,” Ibrahim says. “People are suffering from this siege, unemployment and harsh economic conditions are the reality; therefore, such interventions are necessary.”
Turkey has only been able to resume sending aid following its reconciliation deal with Israel. Turkey had been demanding Israel lift its blockade against Gaza leading to a stalemate.
That’s because since 2007, Israel has enforced an air, land and sea blockade on the strip’s 1.9 million people that’s crippled the economy and left families dependent on humanitarian assistance distributed by the Hamas-run government.
That’s evident by the 9,000 families lined up outside warehouses waiting for their rations from the social affairs ministry.
Khaled Aljarayhi is 53-years-old and the head of a 10-member household that lives in Khan Younis city. He says the aid is only a temporary solution for Gaza’s long term problem of isolation brought on by Israel’s blockade.
“This assistance can be only described as further humiliation and a form of slavery. I have four jobless children at home who are university graduates – they don’t have any income,” points out Aljarayhi. “What I need for them are decent jobs. If not for me, then at least for my unemployed children.”
Before Turkey and Israel struck a deal this summer to resume aid to Gaza, Turkey was one of the few major countries demanding that Israel lift its blockade.
Things came to a head in 2010 when the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in a Turkish aid convoy, attempted to break the blockade was boarded and seized by Israeli commandos in international waters. Ten activists were killed by Israeli commandos and Turkey broke off diplomatic relations.
Turkey eventually softened its position and Israel said it would accept aid if it is received through its ports. The deal was signed last month.
Hassan Abdo is a political analyst in Gaza. He says now that Turkey and Israel are mending fences, the Gaza Strip is more isolated than ever. That’s especially true now that Egypt, which is Gaza’s only portal to the Arab world, is controlled by the Israel-friendly military regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
“We do hope that Turkey and regional Arab countries do not decide to normalize ties with Israel, before addressing the cause of the Palestinian people as a whole,” says Abdo.
In the meantime, the people of Gaza are largely dependent on outside support. The oil-rich country of Qatar – which has good relations with Hamas – has pledged about $31 million to pay this month’s government salaries.
This comes on the heels of a damning report by the UN relief agency that says Israel’s restrictions on the movement of people and goods in Gaza continue to collectively punish the civilian population and affect every aspect of daily life.