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Barred from Egypt, Galloway group on hunger strike

Dec. 27, 2009 3:42 P.M. (Updated: March 13, 2010 9:03 P.M.)
By Soraya Bauwens-Nuseibeh

London - Ma'an - Over 400 volunteers travelling with British MP George Galloway's aid convoy to Gaza declared a hunger strike on Sunday, protesting Egypt’s refusal to allow the convoy to dock in the port of Nuweiba, on the Sinai Peninsula.

"Volunteers on the convoy are on a hunger strike and will only take fluids until the Egyptian side gives them the nod," said Alice Howard, the convoy’s press officer.

She said the hunger strike began at 11:25 on Sunday, marking the first attack on Gaza during Israel's three-week assault.

The convoy has been stranded in Aqaba, Jordan, since Christmas Eve, when Egyptian authorities prohibited the convoy from docking at the Egyptian port of Nuweiba.

"They told us to double back, return to Europe, then dock at the port of Al-Arish," Howard said.

"We are strong willed people and we're not going anywhere … the convoy will swell in size as we're stranded in Aqaba."

The Lifeline 3 convoy was due to enter Gaza on 27 December to mark the first anniversary of Israel's devastating Operation Cast Lead.

The group, carrying medical and humanitarian aid, is travelling with over 150 vehicles. Howard noted that formula and powdered milk destined for the coastal Strip has been melting in the sun, as a result of the Egyptian authorities' halt on travel.

"All that separates [the convoy] is a four hour journey. It's a small technical issue that can be resolved. They [the Egyptian authorities] have not been supportive."

The volunteers are currently residing in a car park, "With no means of bathing," Howard added. However, she described the reception in Jordan as "phenomenal. The convoy has received a wonderful reception from all the Jordanians."

"This is not a security issue … no one will turn back."

The convoy departed London on 6 December and travelled nearly 3,000 miles across Europe and the Middle East.

In a news release issued by the convoy's organizers Galloway said "Israel has kept Gaza under siege for three-and-half years against international law. It has not allowed aid or rebuilding materials in following its attack on Gaza earlier this year. Our convoy is determined to break the siege and take in urgently needed supplies Spirits are high in our camp in Aqaba, and we are going nowhere except to Gaza."
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