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Turkish 'Humanitarian Aid' to Gaza: Ball-Bearings, Cement Mixers

Is Turkey supporting war against Israel? Customs officials seize 'humanitarian' aid, fear suspicious cargo destined for Hamas.
By Ari Soffer
First Publish: 7/31/2014, 11:44 AM

Ball-bearings are commonly used by terrorists as shrapnel in Qassam rockets
Ball-bearings are commonly used by terrorists as shrapnel in Qassam rockets
Thinkstock

Customs officials at southern Israel's Ashdod port discovered hundreds of ball-bearings and cement mixers in a Turkish shipment of "humanitarian aid" to Gaza on Wednesday, raising fears the cargo could have been used by Hamas to support its ongoing war against Israel, according to Channel Two.

While both items have civilian uses, both have played a central role building Hamas's rocket arsenal and its vast network of "terror tunnels" into Israel.

Terrorists in Gaza regularly use ball-bearings to maximize the lethality of locally-made, short-range Qassam rockets. Unlike other, more powerful long-range rockets and military-grade mortar shells smuggled into Gaza from state-sponsors such as Iran, Qassam rockets have a relatively small warhead. But while the explosion itself may be relatively "small", the rockets are also packed with shrapnel - including nails, razors and, most commonly, ball-bearings - which are scattered throughout a relatively wide radius upon impact, maiming or killing anyone in the vicinity.

The co-opting of hundreds of tons of concrete supplies by Hamas to build its underground tunnel network, used to store and transport weapons as well as carry out attacks inside Israel, has also been well-documented.

The timing of those specific items of "humanitarian aid" is particularly suspicious; Gaza's civilian population are hardly appealing for fresh supplies of ball-bearings, and rebuilding targets struck by the Israeli Air Force while it is still operating over Gaza's skies seems a rather unfruitful endeavor.

The suspicious cargo had been handed over to security services for inspection. Authorities are currently withholding the problematic cargo, fearing it could be easily used by Hamas authorities to help replenish dwindling rocket supplies and rebuild the network of "terror tunnels" which has largely been destroyed by Israeli forces.

For their part, the owners of the seized container claim that the mixers were not specifically meant for making cement, but for other, unspecified, uses. They added that the ball-bearings were meant for use in the mixers.

Turkey's Islamist leadership is one of Hamas's main backers, along with Qatar, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has modeled himself as a champion of the "Palestinian cause", upping his already hostile rhetoric towards Israel since the start of Operation Protective Edge, comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany.

Erdogan's government has form when it comes to funding armed Islamist groups apart from Hamas. Kurdish fighters in northern Syria have long accused the Turkish government of backing Islamist rebels - including Al Qaeda-linked factions - to fight against them.

Last December the Turkish foreign ministry admitted its government had given 47 tons of arms to Islamist rebels in Syria, even as it attempted to pass them off as "non-lethal" cargo.

Amusingly, the weaponry in question had been filed as "guns without military uses" - despite being shipped into a country gripped by a bloody civil war.