Viva Palestina Update 15.30 (GMT) Monday 9th March 2009
GROWN MEN CRYING…THE SIEGE IS BROKEN…ON THE DAY THE PROPHET WAS BORN
And they entered side by side like heroes, some on foot some in their vehicles, tears, smiles, hugs, flowers. It was historic, it was legendary. Gaza we are here. We have fulfilled the promise – Viva Palestina! The lifeline from the people of Britain to you, the people of Gaza, has arrived.
We have broken the barriers, we have opened closed borders, we have defied the odds,we have overcome the challenges across thousands of miles and three continents. We are here to be with you, to embrace you, to share your tragedy with you.
After another morning of intense negotiations, a deal was reached to allow all of the members of the convoy to go through. In the end, Viva Palestina had to make the sacrifice of agreeing that some vehicles will have to cross the border from the Al Ouja Israeli controlled crossing point. This includes our mascot, the fire engine and the boat. This was due to the restrictions imposed by Egyptian law governing the Rafah Crossing.
A tearful Talat Ali told me that ‘Rafah is the most beautiful crossing in the world’, he also said that the time , effort and sacrifices put in by all the Viva Palestina family meant that history has been made today – on the day the prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was born.
George Galloway made an emotional speech thanking the people of Gaza for the wonderful reception and assuring them that for Viva Palestina and in our millions, “WE ARE ALL PALESTINIANS!” George also reiterated that the people of Palestine have voted and that their voice should be respected.
Today the convoy will head along the Salah Eddine road towards Gaza City witnessing along the way the destruction and death caused by the Israeli war machine. Along the way they will be greeted by the people of Gaza who will know that Viva Palestina is here and that they will NEVER BE ALONE.
Part of a 99-vehicle convoy bringing medicine, food, clothing and toys from the UK has reached Gaza after a 24-day journey through Europe and Africa.
Organised by the Viva Palestina group and backed by UK MP George Galloway, the convoy entered Gaza from Egypt. It was held for a day because the Egyptian authorities objected to its carrying some non-medical goods. Gaza is under a tight blockade by the Israeli military, which Egypt helps to enforce at the Rafah border crossing. The Viva Palestina website said it took more than 90 minutes for all the vehicles to leave the two car parks in the Egyptian town of El-Arish where they stayed the night.
It said some non-medical aid had been unloaded in the line with negotiations with the Egyptians and would be delivered by the Egyptian Red Crescent. The Egyptian RC is expected to deliver the non-medical aid via one of Israel’s crossing points where it can be checked by the Israeli military. Mr Galloway, a fierce critic of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, said that more would follow and that Gazans should not feel they were alone. Mr Galloway kissed the ground after crossing into Gaza.
"I have entered Palestine many times but the most emotional of these is after the 22-day genocidal aggression against the Palestinian people," he told reporters, referring to the Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January which Israeli said was launched in response to rocket fire from Gaza.
About 1,300 people were killed in the offensive and thousands wounded. United Nations emergency officials say Gaza is suffering from shortages of clean water, fresh food, medical supplies and and fuel.
On Sunday, there were reports that some Viva Palestina vehicles – which include a fire engine, ambulances and a boat on a trailer – had been pelted with stones and defaced in El-Arish which lies about 40km away from Rafah. Vehicles had been daubed by anti-Hamas slogans, said British broadcaster Yvonne Ridley, who is one of the organisers. Egyptian border officials said 10 Libyan trucks carrying medicine were allowed to transfer their aid to Gaza on Sunday.
We’re Held Up At The Final Frontier
Mar 9 2009 George Galloway
Sunday, March 8, 2009 Rafah Crossing, Egypt
THE aid convoy has come more than 5000 miles without let or hindrance, as the flyleaf of our passports demands, and here we are stuck on the Egyptian border, a few paces from Gaza, and it’s another night in the car and more negotiation before we can pass across. The problem is that the authorities are insisting that some of the vehicles, led by the big red Manchester fire engine and the truck carrying a generator, should cross through an Israeli checkpoint, rather than this one.
Egypt is extremely sensitive to Israeli demands, no doubt with US leverage as well. But our attitude is that we’ve come all this way together and we’re not going to be split now. All for one, one for all. To give in to this would be to admit to Israeli command and control, which we can’t do. Let them permanently open all of the crossings into Gaza so aid can flow in and we’ll lead the surge. But we can’t accept a special favour from Israel which, for almost two years, has sealed the borders and starved the Palestinian people, a communal punishment which is illegal under the Geneva Conventions.
It’s frustrating, but we wait. A game of football has started between Brits and Libyan drivers who have joined our convoy. Earlier, a massive cheering crowd of thousands of local people, as well as hundreds of goats and sheep, greeted us when we arrived. It was sunny and warm but the wind had whipped up a sandstorm. At least that’s my excuse for pranging my car against a barrier.
By the time we reached Rafah, our convoy, which set out from London on Valentine’s Day with 100 vehicles, had grown to almost 250 and the mile-long caravan stretched for more than three miles as more joined us. When we get through, we’ll leave behind more than £1million but, more than that, the legacy will be a symbolic one, of hope and friendship, the message that the majority of Brits do not support the Israeli attacks on the densest-packed piece of earth on the planet and the blockage of essential supplies. Just minutes before we reached the border, US-made jets were screaming overhead bombing Gaza once more.
This has been an amazing journey. The only slight blemish has been the neglect of it in the press back home, with some notable exceptions. The Guardian even unearthed a Trotskyist in Egypt – the only one, surely – to pour ordure on me. I bet it wouldn’t have happened to Bono.
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