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Egypt bans Gaza convoy from Red Sea port

Dec. 25, 2009 12:40 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 27, 2009 9:56 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Egypt refused permission on Thursday for a Gaza-bound aid convoy in led by British MP George Galloway to enter the country through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba.

There will be "no entry from Nuweiba. Entry can only be through Al-Arish," on the Mediterranean coast, Hossam Zaki told the French news agency AFP.

The Viva Palestina convoy of 250 trucks and ambulances laden with European, Turkish and Arab donations of food and medical supplies arrived in Jordan from Syria on Wednesday and was headed to the Red Sea port of Aqaba for the ferry journey across to the Egyptian Sinai port of Nuweiba.

Entering through the port of Al-Arish would mean going around the Sinai Peninsula and through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.

In a statement quoted by AFP, Egypt’s foreign ministry said, "The Egyptian government welcomes the passage of the convoy into the Gaza Strip on December 27, on condition that it abides by the mechanisms in place for humanitarian aid convoys to the Palestinian people, including most importantly the entry of convoys through the port of El-Arish."

Egypt's Rafah crossing with Gaza is the only access point into the Palestinian territory that bypasses Israel.

British MP George Galloway, said the convoy would not be deterred by the Egyptian decision.

“We feel very sad that Egypt has turned us away on Christmas Day, but we hope they will reconsider. This is a very determined convoy and we’re not going anywhere except to Gaza.”

Earlier, at a pro Palestinian rally in Amman, Galloway issued a direct appeal to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

“I ask him [Mubarak] on behalf of our convoy, on behalf of all the people around the people around the world whose hearts are bleeding, whose eyes are weeping for Palestine, please, open your gates for us, and allow us to proceed through the gates of Rafah and allow us to proceed to besieged Palestine,” he said.

In March, Galloway handed over thousands of dollars and dozens of vehicles to the Hamas-run government in Gaza after arriving on an aid convoy.

Israel and Egypt have severely restricted travel to and from the Gaza Strip since the Hamas took full control of the territory in June 2007.

Egypt’s refusal to allow Galloway’s aid convoy also does not bode well for another group, the Gaza Freedom March, which says it is bringing more than 1,300 people to challenge the Israeli led blockade. The group planned to enter Gaza via Rafah crossing in time for a march to Israel’s Erez crossing on 31 December.
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