CAIRO: After a two-week halt at Lattakia, Syria, the Egyptian authorities have finally agreed that the aid convoy, Lifeline 5, is allowed to go into the Gaza Strip via the Egyptian border.
“The Egyptian authorities have made a positive decision that we hope will be translated into [efficient] action when we arrive, [allowing for] easy procedures that will be [completed quickly] so that the convoy will not be [delayed] any longer,” said Zaher Beirawi, the convoy’s spokesman, told Daily News Egypt in a phone interview.
“We want the convoy to arrive to the people in Gaza as soon as possible, and it has already been delayed two weeks,” Beirawi added.
The Viva Palestina charity organization led by former British MP George Galloway sent the aid convoy, Lifeline 5, from London on Sept. 18 to deliver aid and various supplies for the ailing Gaza Strip. It was originally supposed to leave the Syrian port of Lattakia and arrive at the port of El Arish, Sinai, Egypt. Then it would proceed to the Gaza Strip to enter through the Rafah border border in early October.
This plan was delayed, however, when the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not grant the convoy permission to enter the Gaza Strip through Egyptian borders.
“The convoy includes humanitarian aid and medical aid which will be given to the responsible bodies in Gaza, who will then distribute them to those in need,” said Beirawi.
The medical aid packages will be given to Al Shefa’a Hospital, which will distribute them to medical centers, clinics and hospitals in the region. The humanitarian aid packages will be given to charity organizations and other authorized civil society organizations.
If all goes according to the newly modified plan, the convoy should depart Lattakia at 1:00 pm on Monday. The trip to El Arish Port, in ideal weather conditions, should take approximately 18 hours.
When and if it actually arrives when expected, the Lifeline 5 will have 370 people on board despite having left London with an original crew of 387 people. The Egyptian authorities have denied the border entry of 17 international activists of the Lifeline 5 — two people from Turkey, five from the UK, and 10 from Jordan.
“Seventeen [people] were denied entry into Egypt without any plausible reason,” said Beirawi. “This portrays a negative image of Egypt that contrasts its [historically] supportive role towards the people of Gaza.
“This was a random decision that is unjustifiable. They said they are a threat to national security. How can an 85-year-old Jordanian be a threat to national security, or a British female working for the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign be [threatening],” he asked.
Beirawi pointed out that it displeases them — as Arab humanitarian activists — that those who are coming to help other Arabs would be denied entry.
“We still hope that [the Egyptian government] would undo this wrong and allow [the 17] international activists to continue their mission, which is helping the people of Gaza,” he said.