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Turkish Red Crescent sends its biggest Gaza aid shipment yet

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Turkey's Kizilay (Red Crescent) is sending its biggest aid shipment yet to Gaza via Egypt, with a ship carrying some 3,000 tons of food, medicine and equipment leaving for the Egyptian port of Al-Arish on Thursday.

Packages fall towards northern Gaza, after being dropped from a military aircraft, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, as seen from Israel's border with Gaza in southern Israel March 7, 2024. Reuters/Amir Cohen

Turkey's Kizilay (Red Crescent) is sending its biggest aid shipment yet to Gaza via Egypt, with a ship carrying some 3,000 tons of food, medicine and equipment leaving for the Egyptian port of Al-Arish on Thursday.

Turkey, which has harshly criticised Israel for its military offensive in Gaza and backed measures to have it tried for genocide at the World Court, has repeatedly called for a ceasefire and warned of consequences if calm cannot be achieved by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, starting on Sunday.

"This aid, which will be delivered to Gaza with the support and cooperation of the Egyptian Red Crescent, will keep the hopes of Palestinians alive on the eve of Ramadan," Turkey's ambassador to Cairo, Salih Mutlu Sen, said on social media platform X.

Kizilay head Fatma Meric Yilmaz told broadcaster CNN Turk that the ship would make two trips to Egypt to deliver the aid, largely collected through donations.

It will then be transported in around 200 trucks to the border town of Rafah in Gaza, where more than one million people have taken refuge, she added. The aid includes flour, hygiene products, ready-to-eat meals, ambulances, and portable kitchens.

"We have almost enough aid collected to fill the second ship too," she said. "Once the ship returns here, we will fill it up again and the ship will then go again around the 26th (of March) near the middle of Ramadan."

Turkey has already sent thousands of tons of aid to Egypt for delivery to Gaza.

Unlike its Western allies and some Gulf nations, NATO member Turkey does not view the Palestinian group Hamas, which runs Gaza, as a terrorist organisation. It was an attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel on Oct. 7 that prompted the current Israeli military offensive, now in its fifth month.

In Gaza, the humanitarian situation is worst in the north of the enclave, which is beyond the reach of aid agencies or news cameras. Whole swathes of the territory are cut off from food, with the already curtailed aid supplies to the rest of Gaza dwindling to barely a trickle over the past month.

Last week, the United States started dropping aid on Gaza by air, with the Netherlands, France, and others contributing. Turkey has not voiced eagerness to join the air drops so far. A Turkish defence ministry official told reporters on Thursday that Ankara's aid efforts for Gaza by air would continue via Egypt and Jordan in line with needs and demands.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Huseyin Hayatsever

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