Israel allowing Turkey to build hospital in Gaza

While relations between Jerusalem and Ankara remain strained, approval of supply trucks may lead to improved cooperation

The Kerem Shalom crossing, between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in 2011 (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
The Kerem Shalom crossing, between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in 2011 (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Israel approved the transfer of materials from Turkey to Gaza for the purpose of building a new hospital in a move that Turkish officials acknowledge is a humanitarian step, but not a political one.

The Turkish-Palestine Friendship Hospital should be finished within a year and its inauguration could bring a visit to Gaza by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Hurriyet Daily News reported on Monday.

Israel spent two months studying a long list of materials required for construction of the 150-bed medical center that will be the largest in Gaza.

Turkish trucks were finally okayed last week to roll into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom border crossing, although the report did not say when work on the hospital will begin. The project is being financed by the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency and constructed by the Norway-based Aker Construction Company.

Israel and Turkey enjoyed close diplomatic and business relations for years until a gradual deterioration accelerated over the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, in which clashes between pro-Palestinian activists and IDF soldiers aboard the Mavi Marmara resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens and several injured IDF soldiers.

Relations between Ankara and Jerusalem have since remained sour, with Turkey demanding an apology, and compensation for the families of those killed, as prerequisites for the renewal of ties.

Media reports have also claimed that a lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza is a third condition and that Israel has indicated it is open to negotiate the possibility, if Turkey acts as a security guarantor.

Turkish officials see the truck approval as a humanitarian gesture rather than a political move, the report said, despite Israel’s efforts to repair ties with Turkey.

However, with a new government to be formed in Israel, some Turkish officials say the time may be ripe for detente with Jerusalem.

“Although I do not want to seem too optimistic over reconciliation between the two countries, I see a window of opportunity in light of the election results,” diplomatic sources told Hurriyet.

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