Bristol Gaza Link
PRESS RELEASE – Sent 9.00pm Friday 25th December
Bristol convoy members say will join hunger strike to reach Gaza
Yesterday (24th December) Bristol aid vehicles and people travelling as part of the Viva Palestina convoy arrived in Southern Jordan, near Aqaba, to board ferries to take them to Egypt. However by mid-evening news emerged that entry was being denied by the Egyptian authorities.
Supporters in Bristol expressed their shock at this decision:-
Ed Hill says “This is an utter disgrace! This is humanitarian aid on its way to help the people of Gaza. It’s an international crime that it should be deliberately blocked in this way.”
Hasina Khan, secretary of the Bristol-Gaza-Link Association says “People in Bristol have been working hard over the months to collect this aid. And we know that our people on the convoy have had to endure very difficult times on this journey. Now they are almost at their destination we’re all really shocked they aren’t allowed to proceed. What harm is there in trying to help other people who are in such desperate need as in Gaza?”
Both available for comment in Bristol.
British MP George Galloway, who is travelling with the convoy, said “We feel very sad that Egypt has turned us away on Christmas Day, but we hope they will reconsider. This is a very determined convoy and we’re not going anywhere except to Gaza.”
Tension has been mounting with Egypt. Egypt is constructing a massive “underground wall” to seal Gaza. And has just banned the GAZA FREEDOM MARCH from setting off across the Sinai Desert to arrive at the Rafah Crossing at the same time as the Viva Palestina convoy.
Monica Jones (see picture attached) who is on the convoy has sent the following message and Viva Palestina press release:-
FROM: Monica Margaret Jones, press correspondent for Bristol Gaza Link and Viva Palestina convoy member
Tomorrow the entire convoy membership, regardless of faith background, will begin an indefinite hunger strike.
Since Christmas Eve, all nine members of the Bristol group carrying medical aid to Gaza in Palestine have been stranded in the port of Aqaba in Jordan. They have been forbidden by the Egyptian authorities to cross over from here into Egypt, on their way to Gaza. Also marooned is the group’s 40-tonne articulated lorry filled decorated with pictures of Wallace and Gromit and the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and full of vital medical aid for the people of Gaza.
Much of the Bristol aid, like that from all around the UK, has been donated by local citizens. Now it sits idle on the dockside, along with 250 similar aid consignments from 7 countries.
On its 3000-mile journey across Europe and the Middle East the Viva Palestina convoy membership has grown to 500 members – aid workers, drivers, interpreters, journalists. All of them are now living and sleeping in a community centre in Aqaba, waiting for news and hoping the Egyptian government may be persuaded to change its mind.
The convoy organisers yesterday held what was described as a ‘tense’ meeting with the Egyptian consul in Aqaba, in the course of which they were told the hundreds of tonnes of medical and other humanitarian aid could only be handed over to the Gazans if it was carried through the state of Israel and handed over to the United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNWRA).
Convoy members do not accept this way of doing things. They regard the Palestinians as a sovereign people, who have the right to receive community based people-to-people aid in any way they see fit. They do not wish to collaborate with the Israelis, seeing them as responsible for the Gazans’ suffering in the first place.
A new iron wall is now being constructed around Gaza, to further cut off the people there. The hardened steel barrier has already been sunk more than 30 feet into the ground to prevent goods being carried into Gaza from Egypt through underground tunnels. Construction has begun above the surface..
“It’s very sad,” says Bristol member David Cole, when asked his opinion of the stalemate in Aqaba.. “It’s sad that we’ve got as far as we have, only to be told by the Egyptians we’re not welcome. It’s sad for the Palestinian people. Whether it’s Christmas for them or not, they badly need this aid. We need to be strong, and pray.”
“It’s just not right,” added Siba (age 19), the youngest member of the group from Bristol, who has driven a van carrying aid from Bristol to Jordan.
It is still hoped that the Egyptian authorities can be induced to change their minds.
Christians from the convoy are attending Christmas services in the pretty Aqaba church backed by imposing rocky hills of Aqaba, to pray for the convoy’s safe passage.
The most up-to-date and comprehensive compilation of news, twitter-feeds, newspaper and TV reports is available at http://readingpsc.org.uk/convoy/
New International Number for Sakir Yildirim
driver of Bristol 44 ton truck
00962799638134 23/12/09 onwards
Freelance camera crew – video footage available
Downlink 115 16.5V sr 2222
Turksat 3a 43 degrees
For Viva Palestina see www.vivapalestina.org/home.htm
Constant stream of up-to-date info at http://twitter.com/readingpsc/vp3
Bristol news available at www.BristolGazaLink.org and by joining http://bglink.ning.com
Press-TV and Al Jazeera have been covering the convoy from London onwards see http://www.presstv.ir
Plus campaigners clips on http://www.youtube.com etc
For general contact use firstname.lastname@example.org or EdwardHill1@yahoo.co.uk