Egypt bars Gaza-bound aid convoys
CAIRO — Aid convoys bound for the Gaza Strip will now be banned from travelling across Egypt after activists this week clashed with police, the foreign minister said in remarks published on Saturday.
Ahmed Abul Gheit told government newspaper Al-Ahram that members of one convoy led by British MP George Galloway committed "criminal" acts on Egyptian soil on their way to the blockaded Palestinian coastal enclave.
"Egypt will no longer allow convoys, regardless of their origin or who is organising them, from crossing its territory," Abul Gheit said.
"Members of the (Viva Palestina) convoy committed hostile acts, even criminal ones, on Egyptian territory," the foreign minister added without elaborating.
On Tuesday night activists with the Viva Palestina convoy clashed with police in Egyptian the port town of El-Arish, 45 kilometres (30 miles) from the Gaza border.
They had been protesting an Egyptian decision to send some of the convoy's trucks to Gaza through Israel.
Seven protesters were arrested during Tuesday's clashes but police [REPORTEDLY] swapped them for four policemen held by the activists.
A prosecutor in El-Arish later issued warrants for the arrest of seven activists, including two Britons and an American woman.
Abul Gheit was speaking to Al-Ahram from Washington where he is on a visit to discuss the Middle East peace process. He said that, from now on aid, to Gaza must be handed over to the Red Crescent at El-Arish who will turn it over to the Palestinian chapter of the Muslim relief organisation in Gaza.
The comments come a day after a foreign ministry official told Galloway he was no longer welcome in Egypt as he flew out of the country.
Later on Friday, Galloway told Sky News television he and a friend had been "bundled into a car" and given little choice but to get on a plane out of Egypt. "On the steps of the plane a representative of the foreign affairs ministry in Egypt told me that I was declared persona non grata," he said.
Egypt accused Galloway, who once called at a London rally for the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, of trying to embarrass the country, which has refused to permanently open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza.