Ethan Bronner
The New York Times
July 1, 2010 - 12:00am

One month after Israeli commandos killed nine Turks in a raid on a flotilla trying to break the Gaza blockade, the ships’ cargo of aid has begun to arrive here by land, starting Wednesday with 82 second-hand battery-powered scooters for the handicapped.

In the same pipeline are hundreds more scooters, hospital beds, drugs, crutches and surgical tools, building materials, food and clothing, said Mahmoud Daher, a health officer for the World Health Organization here.

The cargo has been sitting in Israel for weeks while the Hamas authorities, the Israeli military and international aid agencies negotiated its fate.

Israel wanted to send in only materials that it was sure could not be used for weapons by Hamas. It also did not want the sponsor of the flotilla, a Turkish Islamic charity known by the initials I.H.H., to distribute the goods because of its close ties to Hamas. Hamas, meanwhile, said it wanted either all the aid or nothing.

In the end, the United Nations agreed to distribute the goods. The arrangement was acceptable to all sides, but left I.H.H. officials in Gaza deeply upset.

A convoy of 128 trucks carried the cargo into Gaza from Israel as the American Middle East envoy, George J. Mitchell, watched from the Israeli side. He expressed approval at Israel’s agreement, in the wake of the flotilla disaster, to ease its blockade somewhat, though the movement of goods and people out of Gaza remains largely blocked.

“We appreciate the changes that have been made,” Mr. Mitchell said. “There has been a great deal of progress in terms of permitting additional goods into Gaza.” He added that the United States would work with Israel on “further steps that will be taken in the near future.”

The scooters were brought in on flatbed trucks and driven to Karni Crossing in east central Gaza. United Nations workers driving forklifts moved them into an unused warehouse in the evening, in near total darkness — because of a dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank over who pays for electricity here, there is an acute shortage.

Mr. Daher, of the World Health Organization, told Israel he would not accept the scooters without their batteries and chargers, something Israeli officials considered withholding out of fear they would be diverted to militant use. Mr. Daher prevailed, and as the scooters began to arrive, a colleague, Khamis Abultayef, said each scooter would be checked for both.

Mr. Daher added that with numerous hospitals and clinics, Gaza could use a great deal of equipment and medicine, although he worried that the donations and the needs were not perfectly suited to one another.

“We have been given a great deal of Tamiflu and food supplements,” he said, “but what we really need are cancer drugs and medicine for hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.”


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