Turkish aid ship departs for Gaza following Israel deal
A Turkish ship has left for Gaza carrying aid as part of a deal between Ankara and Israel to mend ties after years of tension.
The Lady Leyla, a Panama-flagged ship loaded with over 10,000 tonnes of supplies including food and toys, set off on Friday from the southern port of Mersin.
The ship will take 30 hours to reach Gaza and the aid would arrive just before Eid celebrations on Tuesday marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
"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," Development Minister Lutfi Elvan said.
"They are a present from our children to Gazan children."
He also thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for leading the process which led to the restoration of ties between Turkey and Israel.
Turkey and Israel were formerly regional allies, but fell out in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed ten Turkish activists in a raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
As part of a breakthrough deal reached this week to restore relations, Turkey will send regular humanitarian aid to Gaza's Palestinian residents.
Turkey's ruling Islamic-rooted AKP party has friendly ties with Gaza's Hamas rulers, and 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.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on 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.
Agencies contributed to this report