Israeli customs officials held a shipment from Turkey meant for the Gaza Strip for inspection at the Ashdod port on Thursday — and discovered hundreds of ball bearings that could be used to make particularly destructive bombs or shrapnel for rockets.
However, a more thorough inspection revealed that the ball bearings were components of a machine used to make chocolate — which was also found in the cargo. Special flour used in the chocolate-making process was also found on board the ship.
After gathering that most of the items in the shipment — which included clothes and medicine — would be used for civilian, humanitarian purposes, the officials released the shipment. However, they held back the ball bearings for further inspection.
Turkey has been sending humanitarian shipments to the Gaza Strip regularly since the start of Operation Protective Edge. The shipments reach Israeli ports before being transferred to the coastal enclave. They are monitored to ensure that none of the items on board could be used to build weapons or terror tunnels.
Mimicking the tactics used by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas heavily relies on two types of weaponry: anti-tank missiles and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The latter, which are used to booby-trap houses, such as the one in which three IDF soldiers were killed on Wednesday morning, can also contain shrapnel such as ball bearings in order to cause more severe and extensive damage.
Shrapnel has also injured Israelis in recent weeks, in areas where rockets, which were launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip, exploded.
Turkey has been a vocal opponent of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians.
Last Friday, he criticized the United Nations for being “silent” on Israel’s operation in Gaza and said that Turkey has had difficulty delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza because of Israeli restrictions.
Earlier this week, the Turkish group that organized the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010 said it was planning to launch another aid convoy to the Gaza Strip, this time with an armed Turkish military escort. But it was later reported that Turkey would not back the convoy as long as Israel continued to transfer Turkish aid to Gaza overland.
Elhanan Miller and JTA contributed to this report.