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British aid convoy enters Gaza

Nov. 25, 2010 10:53 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 26, 2010 8:20 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A humanitarian convoy that set out from London in October entered the Gaza Strip from Egypt Thursday evening.

A member of the Road to Hope convoy, identifying himself as Shabz from London said it felt "great" to be in Gaza. "We've got toys for the children, equipment for the hospitals. We've got blankets," he said, speaking on the phone from the road from Rafah to Gaza City.

Speaking from London, convoy spokeswoman Leyla-Rubaina Hyda said that only 37 members of convoy had been permitted to enter.

Egyptian authorities banned several others, including some who had participated in the Turkish-backed "Freedom Flotilla" in June in which nine people were killed by Israeli commandos who boarded the Gaza-bound ships.

One man who had been onboard the Turkish Mavi Marmara vessel, Irish activist and former US Marine Ken O'Keefe, was permitted to enter Gaza, Hyda said.

The convoy brought a consignment of some 30 vehicles and £500,000 ($788,750) in humanitarian aid. The activists and their cargo arrived in the port city of El-Arish on Thursday after Egypt refused to allow the group to enter the country overland from Libya.

The Road to Hope mission also earned notoriety three weeks ago when a Greek ship's captain held 10 members of the convoy captive after an apparent dispute over payment. Greek commandos boarded the ship after the captain brought the group against their will to the port of Piraeus.

"This has been an incredibly long road to Gaza and it highlights the incredible obstacles and potential dangers of helping the people of Palestine," O'Keefe said in a statement posted on his website earlier on Thursday.
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