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Hamas applauds Turkish-Israeli deal despite continuation of Gaza siege

June 28, 2016 12:10 P.M. (Updated: June 29, 2016 10:09 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The Hamas movement on Monday applauded the Turkish government for its “official and popular efforts to ease the Gaza blockade,” following a reconciliation agreement signed between Israel and Turkey.

In a statement released after the official announcement of the agreement, Hamas, the de-facto rulers of the besieged Gaza Strip, expressed their “deep appreciation” and “gratitude” to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for his support for the Palestinian people.

The statement added that Hamas expected Turkey to continue exerting pressure on Israel to end its stringent blockade of the Gaza Strip completely, and stop its assaults on the Palestinian people, land, and holy places.

The movement said that Turkey’s efforts in negotiating the agreement, which re-established diplomatic normalization between Israel and Turkey, was “accordant with a long history of Turkish support and solidarity with Palestinians.”

The movement’s approval of the rapprochement represented a rare moment of consensus between Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and Israeli leadership.

The agreement ended six years of diplomatic strife between Israel and Turkey, which was sparked by the 2010 Israeli attack on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which led the first Freedom Flotilla aimed at lifting the Israeli-imposed siege on the Gaza Strip.

Ten unarmed Turkish activists were killed as they attempted to access the besieged Gaza Strip to deliver much-needed international aid during the Israeli incursion, sparking international outcry.

Hamas in their statement “hailed the martyred and wounded activists on board the Mavi Marmara as heroes who sacrificed their lives and blood for Palestine.”

In a press conference Monday following the finalization of the deal, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim shocked Palestinian and international analysts by claiming that deal “largely lifted” Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.

While Israel agreed to allow Turkey to begin delivering international aid to the besieged coastal enclave and built infrastructural projects, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed that Israel is to maintain the near-decade long blockade that has plunged the vast majority of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents into crippling poverty.

“I was not prepared to compromise on the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip; it's vital to prevent Hamas from beefing up its arsenal.” Netanyahu explained in a statement.

"It took years to reach this agreement," Yildirim said. However, many were disappointed that Turkey, as a key detail to the deal, formally conceded on pressuring Israel to fully lift the blockade after years of warnings and threats.

PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi slammed the agreement as “a pact of self-interest, both by Turkey and Israel," in an interview with Middle East Eye.

“They didn’t get the siege lifted, which is the real issue,” she said. “I think Israel got a lot out of this frankly speaking.”

She criticized the arrangement for undermining the PLO by directly dealing with Israel, explaining that doing so “gives Israel more control and say over Gaza."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki meanwhile endorsed the agreement, but insisted that all terms directly relating the the Palestinian people involve the Palestinian government.

The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas was elected to rule the territory.

Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008.

The UN has warned that unless current trends were altered, the Gaza Strip could become uninhabitable for residents in fewer than five years. "The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unlivable by 2020," the UN's development agency said last year.
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