Asia convoy seeks to break Gaza siege

Ahram Online, Saturday 18 Dec 2010

An aid convoy that started off in New Delhi arrived in Turkey Friday en route to Gaza by sea

Asia to Gaza Convoy in Iran
The convoy received a warm welcome in its stop in Iran. (Photo: AP)

An Asian aid convoy comprising of politicians and activists from 18 countries, including Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates is on its way to Gaza in an attempt to break Israel's four year siege on the Strip.

The "Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan" departed from New Delhi earlier this month and arrived in Turkey yesterday where it will hold a meeting in the Kurdish city of Diyar Bakr Saturday. The convoy's activists include Muslims, Christians, Jews and Buddhists. It is planning to reach Gaza by end of December, in time for the second anniversary of Israel's 22-day war on the Strip that started on 28 December 2008.

Approximately 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 5,000 injured or maimed in the three-week blitz. Half of Gaza's infrastructure was destroyed and remains unrepaired as a result of Israel's siege, which bans the entry of building materials.

Seven Iranian MPs joined the convoy, which according to its website is an alliance of "people's organisations, social movements, trade unions and civil society institutions of Asia, when it arrived in Iran. The convoy is carrying medical aid and relief supplies. It aims to enter Gaza, via Egypt, by sea.

While Iranian lawmakers were quoted in the Iranian press saying they "performed" the required formalities to obtain entry visas to Egypt, official sources told Ahram Online that not all the requests of the convoy's members reached Cairo. The source added that there is a "national procedure" regulating the passage of aid convoys to Gaza in general, yet Cairo deals with each on a "case-by-case" basis.

Meanwhile, the European Union on 16 December said that Israel must guarantee the "unconditional" opening of all borders to the besieged Strip. EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton told US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell Thursday that Israel needs "to achieve a fundamental change of policy that allows for the reconstruction and economic recovery of Gaza."

Several international groups have attempted. with much difficulty, during the past two years to break the siege of Gaza, by sea and by land. In May, a Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza was attacked by the Israeli navy with nine passengers shot and killed at near range.

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