CAIRO: The last members of the Viva Palestina convoy headed to the Gaza Strip landed in Al-Arish airport Tuesday after earlier arrivals conducted a sit-in to insist that all members be allowed into Gaza.
The first 100 arrivals were told Monday that only they would be allowed to go to the Gaza Strip with the 150 vehicles carrying relief. Egyptian authorities wanted them to enter Monday night but they held a sit-in until authorities finally agreed to wait until the remaining 428 members flew in from Lattakia in Syria to join them.
“If they had done that, the airport would have been wrecked, British Respect MP and Gaza Freedom March (GFM) member Yvonne Ridley told Daily News Egypt in Cairo.
The Lifeline 3 convoy – including some 150 vehicles – was transported via cargo ship to the port of Al-Arish, after the convoy acquiesced to the Egyptian government’s demands to dock there instead of Nuweiba.
The convoy is carrying over $1 million worth of aid intended for Gaza and had hoped to enter on the one-year anniversary of the Israeli offensive on Gaza in late December.
North Sinai Tagammu party member Khalil Jabr Sawarkeh had told Daily News Egypt Sunday that authorities would attempt to have the convoy members enter during the night to limit any impact of their arrival.
“They want it to get to Gaza with minimal fanfare, and they will probably let them enter Rafah during the night to limit any involvement from people in the area, he said.
“We’ve signed a class action to give power of attorney to lawyers to fight the wall in Rafah because it’s illegal. It’s a joint effort by Egyptian and international activists.
Meanwhile, GFM activists still in Cairo had resigned themselves to not being allowed to travel to Rafah, but had decided to raise a class action suit against the Egyptian government for the building of an underground metal barrier on the border with Gaza.
“The foreign ministry has scored a spectacular own goal, Ridley said, “because by throwing the spotlight off Israel and its siege of Gaza it has shed the spotlight on Egypt’s complicity and now the whole world knows the Egyptian government is enforcing the brutal siege alongside Israel because of the behavior of the foreign minister.
“He has severely underestimated the will and determination of the freedom marchers and Viva Palestina members, she added.
GFM activists – estimated at 1,300 – had conducted a series of protests in Cairo to pressure the government into allowing them to travel to Rafah and enter the Gaza Strip, but to no avail.
“By his [Aboul Gheit’s] treatment of us, Ridley said, “he ended up bringing chaos to the streets of Cairo, and we saw how . violent the police are here. And we saw these shameful scenes of these Egyptian plainclothes police punching women in the face and removing their hijabs (veils). None of this would have happened if they had let us through.
“We are peace activists, we pose no threat of the security of the Egyptian government and Egypt and we will not bow down to tyranny, she added.