Turkey is reportedly holding up hundreds of crates of medical equipment purchased by Israelis to aid in Israel’s fight against the coronavirus.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that a similar amount of equipment be transferred to the Palestinians before the Israeli supplies are released in a move Israeli authorities decried as propaganda, Channel 12 reported.
The gear was purchased by Israelis, but not by the government, with Turkish authorities’ permission to export it to Israel, the report said.
Before the equipment was loaded onto planes for transport to Israel, Erdogan’s office halted the move, demanding that Turkey be allowed to transfer a similar amount of gear directly to the Palestinians.
Israeli officials were angered by the demand, calling it propaganda and saying that anyone who wants to directly transfer equipment to the Palestinians was already permitted to do so.
The crates are being held in an Istanbul warehouse and contain gear, including personal protective equipment, which was produced in Turkey, one of the world’s leading suppliers of medical equipment.
The equipment was meant to be used in Israeli medical facilities, including Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Channel 12 reported.
On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Turkey was supplying personal protective equipment to Israel, including surgical masks, overalls and sterile gloves.
The report quoted an unnamed senior Turkish official as saying that Ankara had approved the sale of medical equipment to Israel for humanitarian reasons and that Jerusalem would reciprocate by allowing similar Turkish aid to the Palestinians.
However, Israeli sources told the Hebrew-language Ynet news site that the report was inaccurate — that the deal was commercial, not humanitarian, in nature and that there was no connection to aid to the Palestinians.
According to Bloomberg, the Turkish official said that three planes from Israel were to have landed Thursday at the Incirlik air base, which is also home to a US Air Force contingent, to pick up the cargo. The official said Turkey would donate medical aid to the Palestinians within the next few days.
Relations between Israel and Turkey soured after Erdogan took power in 2003 and hit a nadir in 2010 after the Mavi Marmara incident, in which Israeli commandos boarded a ship trying to break the maritime blockade of Gaza and killed 10 Turks after coming under attack with clubs and iron bars.
Despite the souring of ties, trade — with the exception of military sales — between the two former strategic allies has remained robust. Turkey was Israel’s No.7 export destination in 2019.
Turkey has provided protective equipment to over a dozen nations hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, including to five Balkan countries, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Turkey’s own COVID-19 death toll has continued to rise. The country recorded 96 deaths on April 9, taking the total toll to 908, with the number of confirmed cases increasing by 4,056 to 42,282, according to figures released by the health ministry in Ankara.