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Latest Viva Palestina convoy breaks siege and enters Gaza to jubilant crowds

25 October 2010

[Zaher Birawi of Viva Palestina speaks to Yousef Helou of Press TV on entry into Gaza.]

The Viva Palestina convoy of almost 150 vehicles, 370 people from 30 different countries and $5m of aid has entered Gaza.

Amidst scenes of jubilation from thousands of Palestinians there to greet the convoy, Kevin Ovenden, the convoy director, expressed his joy at being in Gaza once again.

“We have driven more than 3,000 miles to bring this essential aid and to break this illegal siege of Gaza. We have been joined by supporters from Morocco and Algeria and from the Gulf States and Jordan, to make this the biggest convoy ever to break the siege of Gaza. We are absolutely overjoyed to be here and to bring with us the soil from the graves of those who were massacred on the Mavi Marmara which will be used to plant trees as a memorial to their sacrifice.”

The convoy set out four weeks and five days ago from London. It travelled through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Syria. Everywhere the reception was fantastic and the generosity of well-wishers unsurpassed. Towards the end there was a frustrating delay in Syria whilst negotiations at the highest levels were conducted with the Egyptian authorities.

In the end it was all worth it as the Egyptian authorities decided to allow passage of the whole convoy. Convoy leaders however regret the decision by the Egyptian authorities to exclude 17 members of the convoy, including George Galloway.

Convoy leaders confirmed that not only medical but other forms of aid have been taken into Gaza on the convoy in almost 150 vehicles, which can be used for medical and other peaceful purposes. Total aid is valued at $5m.

Viva Palestina were also keen to correct inaccurate reports that had appeared in the New York Times and elsewhere. These claimed that the convoy had entered Gaza through Israel.

These claims are entirely untrue. Viva Palestina has had a firm principle from its inception and that is it will not go through Israel to reach Gaza or hand over convoy aid to Israeli authorities.

Entry into Gaza was through Egypt. The convoy sailed from Latakia in Syria to the Egyptian port of El Arish and then drove the 40km to the Egyptian/Gaza border at Rafah, where they entered the Gaza Strip.

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