Galloway’s aid mission enters Gaza after clashes

George Galloway, Bethnal Green and Bow MP, enters Gaza after his convoy carrying aid clashed with Egyptian police. Photo: Viva Palestina

George Galloway, Bethnal Green and Bow MP, enters Gaza after his convoy carrying aid clashed with Egyptian police. Photo: Viva Palestina

Bethnal Green and Bow MP George Galloway’s aid convoy has finally reached the Palestinian territory of Gaza after coming under fire from Egyptian riot police earlier this week.

The Viva Palestina convoy of 200 vehicles and more than 500 humanitarian activists left London a month ago to deliver medicines, food and other essentials to the Palestinian people.

Organisers say they have now handed over their aid supplies to a non-governmental organisation of civic bodies at a ceremony in Gaza City.

Convoy participants are expected to spend the next 48 hours in Gaza distributing aid which has been donated from all over the world.

The convoy, which coincides with the anniversary of last year’s attack on Gaza by Israel, set out to break Israel’s economic blockade of the territory which prevents the importation of goods. Gaza’s border with Egypt is also sealed.

Convoy members clashed with police on Tuesday following a protest in the town of Al-Arish. Convoy activists, including Mr Galloway, demonstrated against the Egyptian authorities’ decision that a quarter of the convoy vehicles would be re-directed through Israel.

Mr Galloway said: “Israel is likely to prevent it entering Gaza . 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.”

Reports from convoy members say that their protest was attacked by 2,000 Egyptian riot police who used water canon and tear gas while plain-clothed men threw stones at convoy members.

Fifty activists were injured – with ten requiring hospital treatment. Six people were arrested and later released.

Mr Galloway condemned the Egyptian authorities as “brutal, arbitrary and capricious”.

Betty Hunter, General Secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: “It is shocking that the Egyptian government is behaving in this way. There can be no justification for preventing this aid and the people who have worked so hard to provide it from reaching Gaza.”

The Israeli blockade of Gaza has been in place for more than two years and was tightened in the run up to last year’s attack on territory which left 1400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

The blockade has left the 1.5m Gazans living on less than a quarter of the supplies they relied on previously.

Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas, the governing party in Gaza, from diverting imports for military use. Israel regards Hamas as a terrorist organisation and Gaza as a “hostile entity”.

Last month the United Nations’ special rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories condemned Israel’s blockade.

Richard Falk said: “People of conscience everywhere, as well as governments worldwide and the United Nations, should take note of the dire situation in Gaza.”

• An Egyptian border guard was shot dead on Wednesday when Palestinian protests against Egypt’s obstruction of the Viva Palestina aid convoy erupted in violence.

The Egyptian state news agency said shots were fired from the Palestinian side of the border and killed the guard.

The governing Hamas party had called the protest in solidarity with the international aid convoy led by Bethnal Green and Bow MP George Galloway. The protest is said to have turned violent when Palestinian youths began throwing stones across the border towards guards.

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