DAYS 23-24: Aqaba to Damascus

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NEWS FROM THE ROAD...

Day 24 – Tuesday Dec 29 ’09

RADIO! BBC Radio Bristol News and Interview with Sakir from Bristol Gaza Link

11pm: Back at the Sahara…

Back in Damascus at the Sahara Hotel. Onto the port tomorrow. Gaza by the end of the week? Locked in a cage, the Gazans wait for us. We have to beg permission to enter. In America, the president receives a peace prize. @Pal_S_Campaign

RADIO! BBC Radio York has a 2nd interview with York to Gaza (#1)

9pm: Heading for Damascus…

Just gone through the jordon/syria border,ahead of the rest of the convoy,heading back to the same hotel we stayed in damascus 5-6days ago! @l2g09

Dec 29: Swansea's South Wales Evening Post report on the Aunties

NEWS! Christian Science Monitor: Gaza hunger strikes: ‘Gorgeous’ George, a Holocaust granny, and angry Frenchmen

British politician George Galloway, American Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, and dozens of protesters in Cairo started hunger strikes this week to protest the fact that Egypt is blocking them from visiting Gaza to mark the anniversary of last year’s war. – Read more…

7pm: More crossing into Syria…

Amazing. Took us 6 hours to enter JOR border and 25 mins to get out. @juanajaafar

our bus had broken down but at the border now, moving onto syria shortly! will be in damascus tonight Inshallah! @Peter2Gaza

COMMENT! A peculiar interview… AJE’s Rahman trying to appear ‘objective’ teamed with Galloway’s frustration after days at Aqaba and weeks of NO coverage from the rest of the media. GG talks about the good work AJE has been doing in his Daily Record column:

Of course in most of the Arab world there is neither press nor parliamentary freedom… There is a unique and extraordinary exception to this darkness, and its name is Al Jazeera. Emanating from the tiny Gulf emirate of Qatar and paid for by royal largesse, the courageous journalists and broadcasters reach seventy million viewers a day. For most of the last week, that has meant leading the hourly news bulletins with the story of the Viva Palestina convoy and its impasse with Egypt.

Which, of course, means that few amongst the Arab world’s 300 million people are not aware that hundreds of British people and others are holed up in a Jordanian car park trying to reach the Holy Land. But East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet it appears. Apart from what I have written here in the Record, there has not been a single word in the British media about this huge aid effort and its fate. Of course, if it had been trying to reach Darfur or another favoured location it would be different. – Read more…

6pm: Live(ly) interview with George Galloway on Al Jazeera from Jaber Crossing:

Oh dear George Galloway – an interview with our friend & supporter, Al Jazeera, was not the place to lose your cool. Hope can make amends @YorktoGaza

5pm:

Back at Jordanian border control for the second time in a week, as we do our journey in reverse. Syria next @juanajaafar

NEWS! Al Jazeera: US congressmen fighting for Gaza

4pm:

Lunch – rice, goat knuckle, pine nuts – fruit & veg souq nr Amman, guests of Palestinian well-wishers. Massive gp of us with police escort @Pal_S_Campaign

RADIO! BBC World Service: World Briefing 0517GMT (thx V@L&WPSC)

RADIO! ABC Australia, AM: Gaza despair 12 months after Israeli attacks

NEWS! Australia’s ABC TV’s 7.30 Report also has a story: Gaza conflict – one year on:

3pm: Arrived Amman…

Stopped 4 petrol +a grp of flag-waving Palestinians ran up, paid +showered us w biscuits/choc bars. We r def in t news here @Joti2Gaza

Just reached Amman (again!) We are ok, just a bit tired having camped UNDER THE STARS last night! @YorktoGaza

2pm: Approaching Amman…

Approaching Amman shortly,will head to Syria from there and onto Latkia Port,gonna be a long drive! Had to stop to help some1 get their exhaust fixed,we are 180km from Amman,running behind,need to catch up with the rest of the convoy. @l2g09

NEWS! Sweden’s HD: Gaza a Year Later…

11am: Gassing up…

Benzin stop at Ma’an town. Cloudless sky = warm drive. Hope all’s well back in Msia … @juanajaafar

8am: Hunger strike over… stop start shuffle to Syria…

Yella, yella on the move, vehicles released from police compound!… Two paces forward then halt. Stuck in police net. We try 2 keep in our groups, b1, b2 etc then police come and jumble us up… Stop start. Feels like being forced into a game we don’t want to play @YorktoGaza

Leaving Aqaba for SYR. Spirits up as we get back on the road heading to PLE. Long way pun long way la. Janji sampai dan amanah fulfilled. We got police escort that’s stopping us every 2 minutes. It’s a straight road to the border man. Sengaja nak lambatkan orang @juanajaafar

Hunger strike ended yest pm as agreement reached with Egyptian gvt. Back up thru Jordan 2day, then cross Syria 2 the Med. @Joti2Gaza

7am: Leaving Aqaba

Convoy queuing up to leave car compound. Camped out here last night. A long drive to Syrian port of Latakia lies ahead. @Pal_S_Campaign

VIDEO! Excellent compilation from TheSitch: through Turkey, Syria and Jordan finishing with the hunger strikes and protests in Aqaba

TWOOT?!? More from Bob after that solo tweet about bombs being dropped on our mini-flotilla, “Progress possibly maybe“:

… yesterday we did a rather amateurish protest and hired two boats to take us out towards the Isreali coast and Eilat to display our banners towards the tourists on the corniche at Eilat. The ISrealis seemed to know about the plan as they started firing… READ MORE…

BREAKING BROKEN NEWS! BBC “ACTUALLY” REPORTS “NEWS”

18:22 GMT, Monday, 28 December 2009

Gaza marchers on hunger strike in Egypt

“… Meanwhile a convoy of vans carrying supplies which travelled all the way from London to Jordan has been told by Egyptian officials it must go all the way back to Syria to get into Egypt… The “Viva Palestina” convoy, led by British MP George Galloway, has been blocked from getting on a ferry from Aqaba to the Egyptian town of Nuweiba where it planned to continue by road to the Rafah border crossing… But now the convoy faces a potentially budget-draining journey back through Jordan to the Syrian port of Latakia, followed by several ferries to El Arish.”

Actually, the BBC has many faces… BBC Arabic has pics of the protests around the World & video from Egypt… [eng] (perhaps the most detailed about the holdup in Aqaba)

NEWS! Jordan Times front page: Gaza aid convoy to head for Syria after Egypt talks failed

Dec 29: Jordan Times – click for PDF

Day 23 – Monday Dec 28 ’09

NEWS! Al Jazeera: Gaza aid convoy to change course & China’s Xinhua: Gaza-bound convoy accepts Egypt’s offer, heads to Mediterranean port & Press TV: Cairo forces Viva Palestina to take detour & France24: Gaza aid stuck in Jordan amid Turkish mediation

8pm:

Diaspora Palestinians in Aqaba waving off convoy with tears in their eyes n thanking us for going to Gaza.Something they not allowed the… Its humbling t see grown men crying. So sad that as a stranger from UK I can go to Gaza but not those in whose veins flow Palestinian blood. A people robbed of their homes,land n have been forced into exile upto 62yrs ago r still being traumatised by a world that ignorer their … @Zhat

7pm:

George has just announced that we’ll be leaving tomorrow for syria. From there, 19 hr ferry ride to egypt. Gaza entry unsure @Pal_S_Campaign

Awaiting final update n then shuttle buses to be reunited with our vehicles tonite… V slim chance of leaving Aqaba before 5am on Tue morn for 700km to Syria again @Zhat

So we’ll be leaving after fajr(dawn)prayers on an 800km journey2the port in Syria,then on2a number of ferries for a 16hr ride to Al-Arish. @l2g09

6pm:

Surprise, surprise! Took taxi back 2 ambulance & no-one else has come. Buses been stopped as meeting at 8 in Aqaba… We did negotiate getting ambulance out for fuel. The deal was the guys left and I stayed behind!… We’re back at ambulance & making tea with stollen cake. Not sure what next or when! H. @YorktoGaza

We were told to be ready2leave @3pm,then 5:30pm,now 7pm! Hmmmm will we be leaving 2day? I dont know but I will let you know ASAP. @l2g09

NEWS! LA Times: Are there hidden motives behind blocking of Gaza aid convoy?

5pm:

Looks like heroic negotiations and international pressure on Egypt has worked. The Convoy is set to move on imminently. @Fio_edwards

NEWS! “It was Christmas Day but there was no room at the Inn for the weary travellers.” – Al Jazeera talks to GG & Galloway’s Daily Record Column: A sorry tale of Christmas on road to Gaza… & Dark echoes of Holocaust…

4pm: Lunch in Aqaba

We have all checked out of our hotels and will be heading to our vehicles soon. @juanajaafar

Big gathering of well-wishers, w rice, ribs of lamb, yoghurt, cardamom. Send-off? Press conf in 1 hr… The press conference may not be on the BBC! Al Jazeera’s livestream here http://is.gd/5CaCR @YorktoGaza

Local Palestinian hotel owner just laid on the most amazing feast for all of us in the compound. Expecting news soon on moving@Pal_S_Campaign

Dec 28: Convoy re-route via Syria

3pm: Northbound…Meeting in centre of Aqaba. Looks like a move for the convoy imminent – towards Syria. Refreshments on table! @YorktoGaza

EGYPSHAME! 85yo Hedy Epstein & Friends… Group of grandmothers to stage march protest: Holocaust survivor to stage Gaza hunger strike

PICTURES! Demotix: Convoy in Aqaba

NEWS! Creative-i: Viva Palestina: It is very late. Chaos around the French Embassy. Roads blocked… & Update from Cairo…

1pm: Confirmed… U-TURN to Syria… TURKEY stands with us…

Negotiations progressing. #convoy may go back 2 Syrian port Al-Ladhaqiya nr Turkish border then sail down the Med 2 Al-Arish. @Joti2Gaza

Salaams all. Latest news is that convoy to go back to Syria and to port city of Al-Ladhaqiya close to the Turkish border… Egypt has offered terms: 1) Cross into Egyp from Syria 2) Get permission from ISRAEL to enter Gaza 3) Hand over all aid/vehicles to UNWRA… Convoy accepts (in principle) only the first condition! Diplomatic horse-trading taking place and agreement being ratified as we speak… Seems Turkish pressure means convoy will move to Syria (maybe on the road tonight) and Turkey will fund a chartered ship from Syria for ALL… Back to Syria means 700Km BACK northwards by road, means long,hard drive n means additional fuel costs. Plus 5 DAYS wasted in Aqaba! Shame! How does Egypt call itself a sovereign state when it insists on convoy to seek permission from ISRAEL to cross from Egpyt into Gaza????@Zhat

NEWS! N.Ireland’s Derry Journal: Derry men stranded on mercy mission & The York Press: Members of aid mission go on hunger strike as passage to Gaza is blocked by Egyptian government

Dec 28: York Press – click for PDF (thx RG!)

11am: Morning brief…

Convoy stuck in Aqaba and people protesting in Cairo = Gaza siege still on 1 of our team members saying goodbye. He’s leaving for EGY as individual, has flight booked back from there. Team members in tears…. I think Israel-EGY has made us even more determined to take them on. Even if we do it from our home countries. The struggle for PLE is Not in Aqaba or by the convoy. It’s multi-nat, inter-nat and represented by people from all walks of life… Kevin speaking at meet. We are told to pack up and prepare to leave sometime today. Looks like we will be driving back to SYR… Est if we do EGYs roundabout bully route, 3.5 days to Rafah… those in Msia, whatever was told to you this morn at Embassy re Red Sea route not able to accomod8 convoy size/capacity is nonsense. @juanajaafar

SUPPORT! Convoy and Gaza support in Aberystywth, Wales:

On a wet and blustery day a few hundred yards from the seafront, where huge breakers crashed against the shore and black clouds tore across the sky, six of us from Aber PSC and Aber Students FoP combined held a three-hour vigil for Gaza.

Struggling against the gale we held on to our “Remember Gaza Banner”. Our Palestinian flags waved vigorously in the breeze and the candles burnt brightly inside glass jars (making holes in a flag that blew too close!). Many passers-by crossed the road to talk to us and some cars hooted their horns in support and encouragement. The weather prevented us from handing out too many leaflets, unfortunately, but we received cash donations which we will give to the Church in Wales’ Gaza Mobile Dental Clinic Fund.

We send our strong feelings of sympathy to the people of Gaza and our comradely greetings to you, the valiant followers of the convoy, not least the hunger strikers! Let us hope that Egypt will respond to the thousands of phone calls and emails and allow the convoy to reach its destination with the aid unimpaired. Viva Palestina! – Elizabeth

READ MORE ABOUT ABER PSC here…

VIDEO! Dec 27 Vigil outside Israeli Embassy in London:


Interview with UK MP Jeremy Corbyn

Interview with supporters + another video…

1am: Aqaba Whispers…

Rumour has it we’ll be goin back to Syria then getting a ferry to Al-Arish, meeting at 10am. We’ll keep you updated on that one. – @l2g09

NEWS! Jordan Times front page: Gaza aid still stuck in Aqaba amid Turkish mediation

Dec 28: Jordan Times – click for PDF

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