Turkish Aid Ship to Gaza, the First in Six Years, Docks in Israel

Turkish aid ship to Gaza
Turkish ship Lady Leyla, carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, arrives at the Israeli port of Ashdod, July 3. The ship is the first aid ship sent from Turkey to Gaza since 2010. JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Turkey has sent its first aid shipment to the Gaza Strip in six years after the country struck a reconciliation deal with Israel.

The Lady Leyla ship—carrying 11,000 tons of humanitarian aid including food, clothing and toys—docked at the Israeli port of Ashdod, the BBC reported Sunday. The cargo will be unloaded and transported overland to Gaza in time for the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan on Tuesday.

Turkey has not sent an aid ship to Gaza since 2010 followed an incident when Israeli naval forces boarded a Turkish flotilla, killing nine Turkish activists. The incident caused a freeze in diplomatic relations between the two countries, but the pair signed a deal to restore relations on Tuesday. It includes Israel paying $20 million in compensation to Turkish families affected by the flotilla raid and allows Turkey to send aid to and carry out infrastructure projects in Gaza. Turkey and Israel will also appoint ambassadors.

Israeli spokesperson Oren Rosenblatt said the ship's arrival was "an immediate implementation of the agreement" and that the Israeli government was making a "special effort" to ensure the aid reaches Gaza in time for Eid. Gaza's 2-million population is mostly Muslim.

The Gaza Strip, controlled by Islamist group Hamas, has been under blockade by Israel since 2006 after an Israeli soldier was abducted by Hamas. The blockade has been criticized by the United Nations, with outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying Tuesday during a visit to Palestine that it "suffocates its [Gaza's] people, stifles it economy and impedes reconstruction efforts."

Israel says the blockade is necessary, however, to prevent Hamas from receiving military materials. Hamas currently uses a network of underground tunnels to smuggle materials into the coastal enclave.