Mideast: Turkish ever closer to Gaza, with aid and more

Ankara wants flourishing Islamic enclave here, pundit says

02 December, 19:13

    (by Sami al-Ajrami) (ANSAmed) - GAZA, DECEMBER 2 - Seen from Gaza, Turkey is very close. Clothing and food labels speak loud, clear and in Turkish, and on hospital shelves, medicines mostly come from Turkey.

    More and more, newspaper classifieds offer Turkish lessons, which are in rising demand due in part to the fact that the Ankara government offers scholarships allowing young Gazans to come study in its universities.

    For the neediest, those scholarships come with a monthly stipend to support the family back home in the Strip.

    ''Without a doubt, Turkey has taken on a very prominent role in daily life in Gaza'', political commentator Hani Habib noted, linking this development to the rise to power of Hamas in 2007. Ankara is interested in seeing an Islamic enclave flourish in this area, Habib said, just as it looked favorably on the election of a Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt. The ousting of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has changed the rules of the game. Since the fatal Israeli Navy raid on its Marmara ship as it tried to break the Israeli Gaza blockade in May 2010, Turkey has multiplied its efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.

    In the latest example, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) recently announced an 850,000-dollar donation from Turkey to buy gas to restart emergency services in Gaza, which had been out of commission due to fuel and energy shortages.

    In 2014, a modern 34-million-dollar hospital will open in the middle of the Strip, where the Jewish settlement of Netzarim was once located.

    Other associations for both material and cultural aid, such as Yardimeli, Ihh, and Tika, have gone from a sporadic presence to opening permanent offices in Gaza.

    Palestinians from Gaza don't need an entry visa to travel to Turkey, a place where they finally feel welcome and are no longer treated as the eternal ''suspects''.

    This is where entrepreneurs have decided to move their businesses, while back home, plaques giving thanks to the Turkish people have sprouted in various parts of the Strip - especially on buildings that have been repaired after Israeli bombings. Last year, Gaza businessman Tarek Abu Dayya had 20,000 Turkish flags and thousands of posters of Premier Recep Tayyp Erdogan made ahead of the Turkish premier's first-ever visit to the Strip: that visit has been postponed, but the friendship between Gaza and Turkey has grown. Dayya has no doubt that his flags, which are in storage right now, will soon be in great demand. (ANSAMed).

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