Turkish delight? Gaza relief as Israel relations thaw

Turkish delight? Gaza relief as Israel relations thaw
Society: Six years after the massacre aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship attempting to break the Gaza blockade, Turkey has delivered supplies to the embattled enclave.
4 min read
26 July, 2016
Turkey's 'Lady Leyla' ship delivered aid, but more practical deliveries are needed, say Gazans [Anadolu]

In the Gaza Strip, more than 9,000 families, all considered "hardship cases", have begun in the past two weeks to receive emergency food rations, provided by the Turkish government.

The aid delivery was from a cargo ship, loaded with 11,000 tons of food supplies and diapers, sent to the coastal enclave which has been under Israeli blockade for nearly a decade.

"We welcome any aid from any country, not [just] Turkey, as Gaza has been suffering from a prolonged Israeli siege," Dr Yousef Ibrahim, deputy-minister of Gaza's social affairs ministry, told The New Arab.

"In this regard, we thank Turkey. Actually, we have been informed that one more cargo ship will be arriving in a few weeks. We are very keen to deliver this to the most needy families in the territory, particularly those registered with the social affairs ministry. [But] part of this aid will go to non-registered families, based on a large database we have." 


In the southern Gaza Strip, scores of families gathered around a warehouse belonging to the social affairs ministry, waiting to receive their designated food rations.

"As you see in this package, I have just received a 50-kilogram pack of flour, 20 kilograms of rice, 10 kilograms of sugar, one litre of oil and other small packed stuff, including sauce and canned food," Taghreed Akram, a widow in her early sixties, told The New Arab.

"Actually, this quantity can hold for few weeks, as I have eight children and I am a widow and responsible for the whole family. We hope that other countries, mainly Arab ones, would extend same hand of support to us."

Mousa Abu Radi, a man in his late 40s and the head of a nine-member household, appeared nervous, while receiving the same food ration.

"No, we are not seeking food, mainly; what we are seeking is a dignified life," he said. "Can you imagine? My daughter has been a jobless nursing graduate for almost two years now. We need these countries to solve our problem, once and for all, so that we might start living normally. I myself have been a jobless worker for 10 years. Only in the past couple of years, have I been registered as a hardship case, by the ministry of social affairs."

Gaza held memorials in May for those killed on
the Mavi Marmara six years ago [Anadolu]

Humanitarian assistance 

The Turkish Red Crescent Society has been responsible for delivering this aid.

"This assistance has been donated by both the Turkish government and the people," said Fatih Aytekin, the Turkish official in charge of the delivery.

"To deliver such assistance, we have dealt with three parties - Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Gaza authorities. After having been unloaded from the cargo ship, at the Israeli sea port of Ashdod, the commodities were loaded in more than 400 trucks and then driven to the southern Israeli commercial border crossing at Kerem Shalom, in southern Gaza.

"There has been some little delay in procedures, but we were able to maintain diplomacy to accelerate the aid delivery."

More still needed

The Turkish humanitarian delivery for Gaza, arrived just a few weeks after Israel and Turkey agreed to restore relations, in the wake of a five-year freeze. 

In 2010, the Israeli navy intercepted a convoy of international ships off the Gaza coast, killing ten Turkish Palestinian solidarity activists. The ships aimed to break the Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave. The latest reconciliation agreement between the two countries stipulated an easing of the Israel-imposed siege on the territory.

Hassan Abdo, a Gaza-based political analyst and researcher, told The New Arab that, though the Turkish aid was welcomed, more still needs to be done.

"In fact, all items of the Turkish aid, including some chocolates, are already available in the local market. I believe that what is needed is that Turkey and other regional aid providers, should deliver more imperative items, such as cement and other raw construction materials.

"Israel has been imposing an embargo on those items and therefore, the reconstruction process of the war-torn Gaza is still slow."

Would Turkish plans to erect a marine power plant off Gaza shores would ever actually get built?

"I do not think any such plans would become a reality," said Abdo. "Back in 2006, Israel bombarded Gaza's sole power plant, destroying it in just a few seconds. I believe that unless there is a political settlement in the region, such plans are unworkable. Turkey - and other Arab countries - should first and foremost press for ending the Israeli occupation, based on international resolutions, instead of going further in normalisation moves with the occupying state."

For nine years, Israel has been imposing its blockade on the Gaza Strip. During this time, Israel has led three major wars on the Hamas-ruled territory, the latest of which in 2014.

Both the blockade and the bombing have made living conditions here harsh, almost beyond words.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, more than 80 percent of Gaza's 1.9 million residents rely on food aid, provided by UNRWA itself. 

Rami alMeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza. Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari