Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Convoy enters Gaza despite delays from Egypt

viva palestina convoy arrives in gaza

(PALOS HILLS, IL 07/15/2009) - To chants of ‘Viva! Viva! Palestina!’ more than 200 members of the Viva Palestina convoy made it into the Gaza Strip Wednesday after spending about six hours at the Rafah border processing paperwork.

American Muslim for Palestine officials listened to the celebration via the cell phone of a Viva Palestina volunteer.

Before a crowd of Gazans, convoy organizer British MP George Galloway said, “We are saying to President Obama, the world is looking. The situation in Palestine is intolerable. You have to stop this. That means you have to take action because actions speak louder than words.

“I’m really proud to say that Viva Palestine USA helped to break the siege. We will cry out against the world … We will continue to bring convoys until the siege is finally ended.”

Israel’s two-year siege of the Gaza Strip has plunged the tiny area of 1.5 million people into a humanitarian crisis. And Israel’s three-week assault further devastated the area when the military bombed homes, schools, mosques, hospitals and universities. The attack killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, wounded more than 5,300 and left more than 50,000 people homeless.

From the ground a Gaza resident said this convoy as well as others like it are essential tools not only in fighting the effects of the siege but to also raise awareness around the world about the plight of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

The Viva Palestina volunteers will go to Gaza City today, where they will spend the night. On Thursday, they will meet with victims of Israel’s January assault before heading back to Cairo, Kevin Ovenden, Viva Palestina director told an AMP official by phone.

The current convoy, which first tried to cross into Gaza on July 11, faced numerous obstacles, according Ovenden.

The convoy left Cairo early Wednesday morning to make the 10-hour trek to Rafah. The convoy is taking two ambulances and 11 truckloads of medical supplies but has left behind hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of vehicles earmarked for hospitals and nongovernmental organizations. Egyptian authorities have refused to allow the vehicles to enter Gaza through its Rafah border. Currently, the sedans and pick-up trucks are in a secure location in Alexandria, Ovenden said.

After he returns from Gaza, Ovenden said he would remain in Egypt for several days to try to get the vehicles released. Israel wants the cars and trucks to be transported to Gaza through Israel, something Viva Palestina refuses to do, Ovenden said. Viva Palestina will take into account the desires of the thousands of individuals and organizations who generously donated to the convoy, he added.

“We are missing more than one-half (of the convoy),” Galloway told the crowd about the impounded sedans and pick-up trucks. “These vehicles are desperately needed. And I’m here to tell you they will be delivered one way or another.”

The American Muslims for Palestine calls on its supporters to continue to pressure the Egyptian government to release the vehicles by calling the Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S., Sameh Shoukry, at 202.895.5400. Ask for the vehicles to be released and to be exported to Gaza through the Rafah border.

AMP is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to educate the American public about the issues pertaining to Palestine and its rich cultural heritage. For more information, contact Kristin Szremski, director of media and communications, at 708.717.4180.