A Turkish ship loaded with medical supplies has docked in the Israeli port of Ashdod prior to the transfer of its cargo to the Gaza Strip. Egypt has refused for the past three months to allow the ship to dock in El-Arish and transfer the aid to Gaza through the Rafah crossing.
A report in the official Turkish news agency said that the Deputy Prime Minister, Bekir Bozdag, had submitted a request to the Israeli Ministry of Defence in October seeking assurances that the ship and aid for Gaza would not be subject to harassment by Israel's armed forces.
The ship was carrying three containers of medicines and medical equipment valued at $1.5 million; the World Health Organisation intervened to help ease its passage to the people of Gaza.
Mr. Bozdag stressed that the innocent people in the Palestinian territories are killed not only by bombs and bullets, but also by the siege which prevents food, medicine and humanitarian needs from getting into the Gaza Strip.
Turkey's Minister of Health, Recep Akdag, told a press conference that his country has been trying to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza for six years. The conference was arranged in cooperation with UNICEF to launch a report on the provision of humanitarian assistance to children in 2012. "The Republic of Turkey has been trying to deliver these particular medical supplies to needy patients in the Gaza Strip for nearly three months now," said Mr. Akdag, "but we have been unable to do so until now, despite the cooperation of Ministry of Health officials in Gaza."
Turning to address his counterparts in Israel, the Minister added, "As a Minister of Health, I will not go into political discussions, but I tell you that preventing the delivery of medicines and medical supplies to patients in the Gaza Strip is a crime against humanity by any standards." Turkey, he concluded, "will not remain silent about such crimes, and will continue to provide aid to children and mothers in the Gaza Strip, as we do in many other countries around the world."