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Asia aid convoy activists enter Gaza from Egypt

Around 100 pro-Palestinian activists, part of an aid convoy from Asia, crossed into the Gaza Strip from Egypt early Monday

AFP, Monday 3 Jan 2011
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The Asia convoy's aid cargo is expected to arrive in Gaza later Monday, after travelling separately from Syria to Egypt by boat, Indian organiser Feroz Mesberola said.

An Egyptian security official told AFP that around 20 Iranians and some, though not all, of the Jordanians travelling with the convoy had been denied visas to enter Egypt.

The aid convoy, dubbed Asia 1, left India at the beginning of December and had planned to arrive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by December 27, the second anniversary of Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" offensive on Gaza.

The boat is carrying one million dollars (760,000 euros) worth of medicine, foodstuffs and toys as well as four buses and 10 power generators for hospitals, Palestinian officials have said.

The convoy was organised in part by the Turkish Foundation of Humanitarian Relief (IHH), which put together a previous ill-fated attempt to break the Israeli embargo on Gaza with a naval aid convoy in May 2010.

That effort ended in disaster when Israeli naval commandos raided the aid ships, killing nine Turks on board one of the vessels. Israel faced international condemnation over the incident, which also threw ties with Turkey into deep crisis.

Since the incident, it has loosened some of the restrictions on imports into Gaza and exports from the coastal enclave. Israel imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza after Palestinian groups captured one of its soldiers, Gilad Shalit, in June 2006. He has yet to be released.

The embargo was reinforced in 2007, after Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave a year after it won legislative elections, following deadly fighting with Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

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