/ 8 January 2010

British convoy denied entry into Gaza

Egyptian security forces clashed on Wednesday January 6 with a pro-Palestinian convoy led by George Galloway, a British member of parliament, as it tried to deliver aid supplies to the Gaza Strip.

The convoy of 198 trucks and more than 500 supporters left London a month ago, hoping to enter Gaza despite the Israeli economic blockade. Egypt has tried to curb a wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the past month after hundreds of foreigners tried to reach the Gaza border to mark the one-year anniversary of Israel’s war in Gaza.

Several protesters and police officers were injured after clashes early on Wednesday. Reuters reported that Egyptian police threw stones at the crowd and arrested seven demonstrators, while some members of the convoy held four police officers.

Israel’s strict blockade of Gaza, which has been in place for more than two years, prevents all exports and limits imports to a few humanitarian items. The policy has grown ever tighter since Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, won parliamentary elections in early 2006 and then seized full security control of Gaza a year later. Israel now regards the strip, home to 1,5-million Palestinians, as a “hostile entity”.

Egypt, too, has kept its one border crossing with Gaza, at Rafah, largely closed. Egyptian officials told the convoy some of their trucks could not pass through Rafah, but had to enter southern Israel and then pass through an Israeli-controlled crossing into Gaza. There was no guarantee that the trucks would be allowed to enter the strip.

Galloway said that was unacceptable. “We refused this,” he said. “It is completely unconscionable that 25% of our convoy should go to Israel and never arrive in Gaza. Because nothing that ever goes to Israel ever arrives in Gaza.” —