Monday, July 13, 2009

Egyptian Government halts aid shipment to civilians in Gaza, Halts Viva Palestina convoy

Egyptians halt Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza;
Former U.S. Congresswoman McKinney in Cairo

(PALOS HILLS, IL 07/13/2009) – Egyptian authorities have stopped a massive aid shipment from reaching the Gaza Strip, while United States officials further complicated matters by requiring 50 American volunteers to sign an affidavit waiving their right to be protected on foreign soil.

Egyptian authorities will allow the Viva Palestina convoy to take two ambulances and an unspecified amount of medical supplies into the Strip, organizer George Galloway told the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) Monday. Convoy organizers and the American volunteers currently are in Cairo waiting for the issue to be resolved. The convoy was to have reached Gaza on July 11.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney arrived in Cairo Sunday. Galloway invited her to join the convoy after learning Israeli naval officials arrested McKinney and 20 others aboard a Free Gaza Movement boat two weeks ago.

McKinney told AMP Monday she was particularly frustrated at the seeming complicity of the U.S. government in Egyptians’ and Israeli actions.

“The American government has put in a requirement that we pay $30 and sign an affidavit that we understand the circumstances of the situation and we won’t have consular services,” McKinney said. “This was not required in the first Gaza convoy nor was such an item required in the Free Gaza Movement.”

McKinney was referring to Galloway’s first convoy, which took truckloads of aid into Gaza in February.

Out of a shipment of 43 vehicles, four ambulances, 25 refrigerators, 50 generators and medical supplies, authorities will only allow an unspecified amount of medical supplies and two ambulances to be taken into the Gaza Strip, which is suffering a humanitarian crisis as the result of Israel’s two-year blockade.

“This is a blatant attempt to stop future convoys of aid,” Viva Palestina director Kevin Ovenden told AMP. “We are resisting it all the way and we will set foot in Gaza. If we cannot bring everything we want this time, then we have unfinished business in Egypt. We will respond by doubling our efforts in the U.S. and around the world.”

This is McKinney’s third attempt to reach Gaza with a humanitarian organization. Her first two attempts with the Free Gaza Movement were thwarted when the Israeli navy prevented Free Gaza boats from reaching Gaza. Two weeks ago, Israeli police arrested McKinney and 20 other volunteers and held them in custody for about one week.

“I’m a firm believer in the idea that U.S. policy – both foreign and domestic – ought to be grounded in human rights,” McKinney told AMP Monday from Cairo. “When I see a deviation from that position, I get involved.”

McKinney represented Atlanta, Georgia in Congress for six terms before being defeated in 2006. She ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 2008.

Viva Palestina organizer Galloway is frustrated with the recent turn of events but remains undaunted in his quest to break the siege on Gaza, he said.

“We are outraged at the difficulties being placed on the U.S. aid convoy to Gaza,” Galloway told AMP. “The president of the United States spoke eloquently here in Cairo about the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, throughout Palestine and beyond. It is now time to for him to match his eloquent words with action. The American citizens here are demanding their president intervenes to insure that the entire U.S. convoy enters Gaza without any further hindrances. The medical aid, the vehicles in which it is carried and the citizens themselves are all needed in Gaza now. Without further delay we hope to enter Gaza with all our aid tomorrow.”

Israel’s two-year blockade on Gaza has plunged the 1.5 million people into a humanitarian crisis, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations. Israel’s three-week assault on the Strip in January killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,300.

American Muslims for Palestine is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to educate the American public about issues pertaining to Palestine and its rich cultural heritage.

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