US welcomes surge in trucks entering Strip

Turkey says Israel denied its request to join Gaza aid airdrops

Turkish FM Fidan says ‘no excuse’ for rejection; vows to take measures against Jerusalem, which has yet to comment on claim

Humanitarian aid is airdropped to Palestinians over Gaza City, Gaza Strip, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Essa)
Humanitarian aid is airdropped to Palestinians over Gaza City, Gaza Strip, March 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Essa)

Israel has denied Turkey’s request to join air drops of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and Ankara will take new measures against Israel in response, its foreign minister, Hakan Fidan, said on Monday.

Turkey, which openly supports Hamas, denounced Israel for its offensive in the Gaza Strip and called for an immediate ceasefire, has sent tens of thousands of tons of humanitarian aid there since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.

The United States started dropping deliveries of aid into Gaza by air last month, with the Netherlands, France, Spain, and others contributing.

“We also conveyed our request to be included in this humanitarian aid operation with (Turkish) air forces’ cargo planes. Today, we learned that our request was rejected by Israel, despite a positive approach by the Jordanian authorities,” Fidan said in a statement to the media.

Israeli authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“There is no excuse for Israel to block our attempt to drop aid to starving Gazans,” Fidan said, adding that Turkey has decided to take a “series of new measures” against the Jewish state.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan arrives for a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, on April 3, 2024. (Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

“These measures, approved by our president, will be implemented step by step, without delay,” Fidan said, without elaborating.

“The measures to be announced by our relevant institutions will continue until Israel declares a ceasefire and allows humanitarian aid to reach Gaza without interruption,” he said.

Turkey and Israel normalized ties in 2022 by reappointing ambassadors, after years of tensions. But those links quickly deteriorated after Hamas invaded Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking 253 hostages.

Since the start of the war, more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. These figures can not be verified and do not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel says it has killed more than 13,000 gunmen in Gaza and another 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7. As of Sunday, 260 IDF soldiers have been killed during fighting in Gaza.

People shout slogans as they march in support of Palestinians during a protest calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 14, 2024. (Emrah Gurel/AP)

On Sunday, COGAT, the Defense Ministry body that coordinates Israeli activity in Palestinian territories, said that 322 aid trucks had entered the Gaza Strip the day before, the highest one-day total since the beginning of the war.

It emphasized that Israel places no limit to aid that can enter the Strip, but the boost in transfers Sunday appeared to be a result of mounting international pressure on Israel to improve the humanitarian situation in the enclave, where the United Nations has warned of looming famine.

White House spokesperson John Kirby on Monday welcomed the increase in aid, but said it was pressing Israel to increase that number to around 350 a day, and a better safeguarding of aid workers’ safety, after last week’s Israeli airstrikes killed seven World Central Kitchen staff.

“Obviously, we need to see this number increase, and we need to see it sustained to really address the dire humanitarian situation,” he said.

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