Loaded-up and trucking, Gaza bound
After waiting and protesting in the Arish Port for the past two days, most of the Viva Palestina Convoy activists were allowed entry to Gaza through Egypt's Rafah border on Wednesday night. Egyptian authorities allowed 139 vehicles from a total of 198 to cross the border, after objecting to the presence of 59 automobiles among the convoy – alleging these vehicles were non-essential and not agreed upon previously with the organizers.
The authorities informed the convoy's chief delegates that these 59 automobiles could be allowed into Gaza only after passing into Israel, at a later point of time, from the Egyptian-Israeli border crossings of el-Auja or Karm Abu Salem. The organizers were not impressed.
“We chose not to send these automobiles via Israel," said Viva Palestina Spokesman Zaher Berawi told Al-Masry Al-Youm, "because from our previous experience and from the experiences of others, we know that aid bound for Gaza through these crossings usually ends up missing or confiscated in Israel.”
Berawi added these 59 automobiles were a donation from the Turkish delegation. "In light of the siege, there is an Israeli-imposed ban on the import of automobiles to the Gaza Strip. So the Turks decided to donate these autos to hospitals and medical clinics – for the purpose of transporting medication and/or medical personnel within Gaza.”
According to the Viva Palestina spokesman, rather than sending the automobiles back to Turkey, the Turkish delegation decided to send these cars to medical clinics and charity groups working with the Palestinian refugees camps of Lebanon and Syria.
Rocks, bricks, wood and chunks of cement were still strewn Wednesday across the port's entrances and exits from the clashes which erupted on Tuesday night. Security forces - including riot police, plain-clothed troops with clubs, and fire brigades, along with defensive lines of lorries and armored personnel carriers - were still out in numbers, but were far fewer than those present in the day before.
Seven members of the Viva Palestina Convoy, who had been arrested during the clashes, were released Wednesday afternoon and later joined the convoy into Gaza.
“We want these foreigners to leave, they're such a headache," a brigadier general from the Central Security Forces told Al-Masry Al-Youm reporter. "If you speak with them tell them so." Meanwhile, a group of Viva Palestina youth stood within the port, near the iron gates which they had half-destroyed the night before. Without hearing, or understanding the officer's remarks, one youth activist yelled “we are very disappointed with the Egyptian government for what they did to us last night, and... even more disappointed with this government's role in assisting the Israeli siege of Gaza. Shame on Mubarak."
The next convoy, Viva Palestina IV, is expected to arrive in Egypt after at least five months. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is reportedly going to join this convoy "in his personal capacity, not in his official capacity as president of a foreign state" said Berawi.