Aid Ship Departs Turkey for Gaza, Ending Long Halt
The general cargo vessel Lady Leyla has departed Mersin, Turkey, bound for Israel, carrying 5,000 tons of flour, 500 tons cooking oil, 2,000 tons of rice and various clothing, toys, shoes and other relief supplies for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Turkish government contributed the supplies and describes the shipment as a "first test;” she is set to arrive in Ashdod before the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.
“The supplies aboard this ship are a sort of present from the Turkish people to their brothers and sisters in Gaza ahead of the upcoming Eid al-Fitr [July 5],” Turkish Development Minister Lutfi Elvan said at a ceremony. “They are a present from our children to Gazan children.”
Turkey and Israel have reached an accord towards the restoration of ties, strained since 2010, when Israeli forces stormed the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara and killed ten activists aboard; the ship was trying to run a blockade and deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. Among other elements of the deal, Israel has apologized and offered compensation, and Turkey will be permitted to invest in infrastructure in the Gaza strip.
Analysts have suggested that part of the reason for the reconciliation between Turkey and Israel is in the Israeli government's desire to develop an export market for the Leviathan gas field, which lies about 70 nm off Haifa. Its reserves were recently estimated at 640 billion cubic meters, and first production is forecast next year; an accord between Israel and Turkey could pave the way for a pipeline export project – contingent on financing and diplomatic agreement.