A Turkish ship left for Israel on Friday carrying aid for Gaza as part of a deal between Ankara and the Jewish state to mend ties after years of acrimony, MiddleEastOnline reported.
Turkey and Israel were formerly close regional allies, but fell out in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists in a raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Tuesday that the ship's departure would be "the first test to see if Israel will play a facilitator role" in easing the blockade.
As part of a breakthrough deal reached this week to restore relations, Turkey will send regular humanitarian aid to Gaza's Palestinian residents.
The Lady Leyla, a Panama-flagged ship loaded with over 10,000 tonnes of supplies including food and toys, set off from the southern port of Mersin, television images showed.
The NTV network reported it would take 30 hours to reach Israel and the aid would arrive in Gaza before Eid celebrations on Tuesday marking the end of Ramadan.
Turkey‘s ruling Islamic-rooted AKP party has friendly ties with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Ankara was seeking the lifting of Israel’s naval blockade against the Palestinian enclave, but as part of a compromise its aid will be delivered via the Israeli port of Ashdod.
Along with the aid deliveries, Israel has offered an apology and compensation over the deadly raid to secure the thaw with Turkey.
Ankara will also invest in infrastructure projects in Gaza under the plan.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Tuesday that the ship’s departure would be “the first test to see if Israel will play a facilitator role” in easing the blockade.
Hamas has thanked Ankara for the aid, but has urged the Turkish government to keep up pressure for an end to the decade-old blockade.