CAIRO: Members of the Viva Palestina convoy stuck at the Gulf of Aqaba began a hunger strike to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Israeli offensive on Gaza as they awaited entry into Egypt.
Fifteen people from the convoy began the hunger strike at 11:35 am Jordan time to mark the exact moment when Israel began bombarding Gaza. For each day the convoy is not allowed to enter Gaza, another 15 people will join the hunger strike.
Convoy leader British Respect MP George Galloway made an appeal to allow the convoy to travel through to Gaza via Egypt, saying, “I am appealing to anyone and everyone to help us reach Gaza. Our medicines are in a race against the time of their expiry date and are spoiling in the desert sun whilst people in Gaza die for the want of them.
The third edition of the Viva Palestina convoy, named Lifeline 3, is currently in Jordan at the Gulf of Aqaba, having arrived there last Tuesday. The convoy consists of some 210 vehicles laden with aid for Gaza, accompanied by some 500 activists, including 150 from Turkey, 30 form the US and a number from Europe.
Egypt has continued to refuse permission for the Gaza aid convoy, which also includes Noam Chomsky and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstien, to dock in the port of Nuweiba, insisting that it must head by sea to the port at the city of Al-Arish.
For the convoy to travel to Al-Arish as opposed to Nuweiba, it would need to travel all around the Sinai peninsula and up through the Suez Canal, instead of just traveling across the Gulf of Aqaba to dock in the port of Nuweiba.
On Saturday, CodePink member traveling with convoy Ann Wright, a former US army colonel, told AP that Egypt was refusing entry on “security grounds and appealed to the government to rescind the decision, adding that it was not “in the best interests of Egypt.
The Israeli offensive on Gaza that began Dec. 27, 2008 led to the death of 1,400 Palestinians (including 400 children and 200 women) and the injury of another 5,000.
The Viva Palestina convoys have traveled across the globe to transport aid, food and medical supplies to people in the Gaza strip. Gaza has been under a blockade for two and a half years, since Hamas took control of the territory.
Meanwhile it was announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu would visit Cairo Tuesday to meet with President Hosni Mubarak. Netanyahu stated that discussion would center on the peace process but it is believed talks would also encompass the prisoner exchange Egypt is mediating between Hamas and Israel.