Tuesday, January 5, 2010

From The Star on-line (PACE Press Conference)

Gaza-bound humanitarian convoy reaches Egyptian port
Date: 6 January 2010
Source: The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Some 100 members of the Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy, who were stranded in Aqaba, Jordan, have reached El-Arish Port and are poised to enter Gaza via Egypt.

Palestine Centre of Excellence (Pace) Malaysia received an e-mail from a convoy member yesterday, informing them that they had been put in hotels while waiting for the remaining 400 members to reach the port.

Pace deputy director Dr Selamat Aliman said the Egyptian government had earlier denied the convoy permission to enter Egypt through Nuweiba port, forcing them to turn back to Syria and enter the country through El-Arish Port.

“Their passports were initially seized by the Egyptians but were later returned after members staged a protest.

“They were told to drive into Egypt but they refused because they wanted to wait for the rest of the convoy,” he told reporters at Jamaah Islah Malaysia office here yesterday.

He said the change of route had led to additional costs of over US$500,000 (RM1.7mil).

Dr Selamat said Egyptian authorities also set two conditions for the convoy – to channel aid through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and to apply for permission from Israel to enter Gaza.

“It is incumbent on the international community to pressure the Egyptian government to support the people of Gaza in the name of decency and universal humanitarian principles,” said Dr Selamat, urging Egypt to facilitate passage of the convoy.

The convoy – an effort by British lawmaker George Galloway – comprises 500 members from 17 countries including Malaysia, and 240 ambulances and trucks laden with medicine, food and other basic humanitarian aid, worth US$1mil (RM3.38mil).

It departed from London on Dec 5 and was to have arrived in Gaza on Dec 27 last year.



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