Israel said on Thursday it will allow into the Gaza Strip construction materials and electric equipment to help build a Turkish-sponsored hospital, in a possible sign of improving ties with Ankara.
The decision came as Israel and Turkey try to hammer out
the details of a US-backed reconciliation announced a year ago. Relations between the once-close allies ruptured in 2010 over a deadly Israeli naval raid on a Turkish Gaza-bound flotilla.
Nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists were killed when the commando raid aboard the Mavi Marmara turned violent, sparking a major crisis between the long-time regional allies and compensation demands from the victims' families.
Gaza, ruled by the Islamist group Hamas, lacks much basic civil infrastructure and lives under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade meant to cut off arms flows but which also curbs imports of fuel and building supplies.
Turkey began constructing the hospital in 2011 using materials smuggled into the territory through tunnels and this is first time Israel has let any in for the project.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon approved the request from Turkey, his ministry said in a statement, and an Israeli official, who asked not to be named, said the reconciliation efforts played a part in his decision.
Once completed, the hospital will be jointly run by Palestinian and Turkish doctors.
Earlier Thursday, Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported that Israel will pay Turkey $21 million in compensation and end the blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, as part of an agreement to end the diplomatic frost caused by the raid.
The paper quoted Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arınc as saying that the deal was reached last month. After Turkey's local elections on March 30, he reportedly said, the two countries would focus on striking a "binding legal resolution" on the reparations. After this date, Arınc reportedly told the paper, the official document be presented to the Turkish Grand National Assembly for approval.
In addition, The Turkish newspaper Zaman reported Thursday that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is planning to visit Israel at the end of April. According to the report, David Meidan, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's coordinator in Turkey has met with the Director of Turkish Intelligence Agency Hakan Fidan, and the two discussed the upcoming visit, reopening the embassies and potential business copperation regarding natural gas and oil in the Mediterranean Sea.