Turkey urged Israel on Tuesday to lift its blockade of Gaza and allow a Turkish-led convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to enter the Hamas-controlled enclave.
An international flotilla carrying some 10,000 tons of medical equipment, housing material and other supplies is expected to reach Israeli waters by Friday, according to a Turkey-based humanitarian aid group leading the effort.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference during a UN meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his government had been in touch with Israel about the aid convoy.
"Acting calmly is necessary rather than raising already heightened tensions," he said. "The blockade on Gaza should be lifted."
He added: "We don't want new tensions ... We believe Israel will use common sense towards this civilian initiative."
$20 million worth of supplies
The convoy, organized by the Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), includes vessels from Britain, Greece, Algeria, Kuwait, Malaysia and Ireland.
It is carrying some $20 million worth of supplies, making it the largest ever to the Palestinian Territories, Salih Bilici, spokesman for the pro-Palestinian IHH, told Reuters.
"Part of this mission is to draw attention to the suffering of the people of Gaza," Bilici said. "We are not concerned that our safety is at risk, because we are a humanitarian group without political aims."
The group is determined to deliver the aid directly to Gaza, rather than leaving it with Israeli authorities, Bilici said.