DAYS 27-29: Lattakia to El-Arish

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NEWS FROM THE ROAD...

Day 29 – Sunday Jan 3 2010

FAIL! Gordon Brown replies to MAP’s Open Letter, Stuart Littlewood responds:

“I pledge that the UK will remain in the forefront of the humanitarian effort,” says Mr Brown. No, Viva Palestina are at the forefront while Brown and the other loafers twiddle their thumbs. – Read more…

11pm: ULUSOY-6 has arrived in El-Arish!

Nick: our ship has got to El Arish! & Mike: We fly tomorrow at 4 pm. – @YorktoGaza

hi from Latakia, SYR. the TUR ship carrying Viva vehicles sailed this morning! according to Kevin the 18 hour sail was extended to 22 hours because the ship had to sail further westward around the Gaza lines. it is unclear if this is due to the reported Israel naval op. in any case, insyaAllah the vehicles will arrive safely in EGY. members hope to board the chartered flights tomorrow sometime and be reunited with the vehicles. we’re a big group so the plane’s gonna have to make about 4 trips to and fro Latakia-Elarish. we’re meeting at camp in the morning and will get more news then. i am humbled by the msgs on Twitter and phone telling me people in Msia are praying for us. thanx guys. insyaAllah it will only be a few days more. – @juanajaafar

can’t believe its been a month of hope, excitement, dissapointment, waiting, hope. Rollercoster of emotions for volunteers and at basecamp!! – @viva_palestina

VIDEO! What does Jordan think?

Interviews with Jordanian supporters of VP (and 1 Bristolian!) via Aramram TV

POETRY! Viva Palestina by Michael Hall:

Gaza strangled by a Jewish anaconda squeezing a slow death on this open air prison 1/2 of whom are children while the Egyptians are paid off by the Americans to build a wall as they beat and kill peace activists trying to get in with food and medicine… The silence of betrayal is a bloody scream from ‘Arab Brothers’ who do nothing but wear keffyeh’s in ‘solidarity’ as they sell Israel gasoline for its tanks…. READ MORE…

6pm: ULUSOY-6 is almost there, ETA: 2010-01-03 20:00

convoy ship 1hr from reaching El-Arish. Israeli navy shadowing the ship! Turkish skipper ignored navy n proceeding full steam. @Zhat

BLOG! The Sitch: Lattakia And The American Vehicles

NEWS! World Bulletin: Viva Palestina convoy onboard Gulf-funded ship heads to Egypt & EarthTimes: Jordanian trade unions urge Egypt to stop siege of Gaza & Press TV report and a phone interview with Hassan Ghani in Lattakia:


Jan 3 – Press TV: Convoy leaves Lattakia

Jan 3 – Hassan Ghani in Lattakia

4pm:

We now have verbal but not written assurance that convoy ppl will b allowd 2land in Al-Arish 2moro. Plane will shuttle 4times… #vivapalestina needs your help! @georgegalloway appeals for emergency funds 2 cover costs of #Egypt-enforced diversion. http://bit.ly/65lnFy@Joti2Gaza

NEWS! Al Jazeera: Egypt opens Gaza border crossing & Malaysia’s Bernama: Viva Palestina Convoy To Leave For El-arish, Egypt By Chartered Flight

3pm:

Vehicles loaded on boat @ Lattakia harbour yesterday and sailed this am. Jubilation mixed w trepidation/hopes 4 safe passage – @Joti2Gaza

Boat set sail wit vehicles for Al Arish, we hope to follow soon! Please see http://bit.ly/gazahelp@CorktoGaza

BLOG! TheRealNews on the GFM & Convoy spotted in Amman(!):

On Christmas Eve, as our taxi drove to the bridge across the River Jordan, we passed a convoy of fifty pick-ups, vans, ambulances, and tractor trailer trucks. They bore the flags of Palestine and Turkey, were filled with waving men and desperate supplies, and honked in return to welcoming Jordanians. The murals called them a “Lifeline to Gaza.”

The obese Palestinian man sitting next to us in the taxi said they were sent by George Galloway, an Englishman. – Read more at ‘Where is Jon?’ & Flickr

2pm: ULUSOY-6’s ETA…

Ship’s eta is early on 4th. Longer than usual due to Israeli piracy threat. We expect 2 fly from 4 am tmoro, plane will shuttle 4 groups – @YorktoGaza

Spent New Year’s Eve having a lovely meal with a Palestinian family in a refugee camp in Syria. We have had such a warm reception from the Palestinian refugees in Syria. Very pleased to have opportunity to stay here… Yesterday we loaded a ship with our 200+ vehicles full of aid – now sailing to Egypt… We will follow on planes soon @Fio_edwards

VIDEO! Convoy footage from Turkish media…


Dec 25 – Convoy in Aqaba, Jordan

Dec 31 – Convoy enroute to Lattakia

Derry to Gaza update on the Israeli Naval ‘blockade’:

1. [Israel] expanded the waters by 12 miles but boat going around it.
2. Ferry left at 10 last night. The airline has confirmed first of four flights will depart at 4am 2m,verbal assurance frm Egypt but airline going ahead anyway.we should arrive 2 nite all of us.

So from my take it looks like Israel had a problem with the route and they are having to go round some 12 mile limit. This most likely last night was spread as a rumour that Israel was blocking the convoy by sea. – Read more…

NEWS! PalTimes: Turkish Navy promises to protect convoy ship…

7am: Convoy ship the ULUSOY-6 is underway, passing Beirut@0525UTC

Click for Map...

Vehicles loaded on ship People waiting for planes… on the blog -news of ship’s departure, lots of stories about life at Latakia over the last couple of days – @YorktoGaza

BLOG!Anyone who reads this and would like to help us get our aid into Gaza from Egypt could use their gift of free speech, get on to every conceivable phone-in or media outlet and ask them to take up this good news story. And wake up the MPs and MEPs and make sure the Foreign Sec and his EU counterpart pull their fingers out and work some diplomatic magic with the Egyptian authorities… – Read more at YorktoGaza’s blog…

Ship laden wit vhicles not left dock yet!Planes to carry ppl not yet ‘securty cleared’ to fly frm El-Arish!3-Jan windw to Gaza ticking away! Without our vehicles (our homes for past month), we feel like refugees ourselves.. min basic clothes, sleeping bags, etc. Taste of exile? – @Zhat

Jan 2: ULUSOY-6 loading up in Lattakia

NEWS!

Al Jazeera: Gaza aid convoy leaves Syria

Salem News: Gaza Freedom Movement Remains Determined Despite Challenges

Malaysia’s NST: ‘Pharaohs’ or not, this convoy to Gaza will prevail & Exhausted, but still determined to see it through

Malaysia’s Bernama: British Politician Praises Rosmah, Mahathir For Helping Palestinians

The update from Derry’s Gaza Five about Israeli Naval manoeuvres on the Convoy ship’s route has got the Twittersphere abuzz. Currently @12am weather seems to be the primary cause for any delay. Derry to Gaza is the only source for the IDF related information (below) – we know others are checking to see if this is accurate. I hope we didn’t give the IDF any ideas!?! – Other information sources:

WX / E.Med / Highs on Sunday: SFC winds 35kts… & Wave height 4m…

Israel Ministry of Transport’s Notice to Mariners: No Navy related activity for 2010… (yet?)

02JAN10@7.38GMT: (not so) surprising update from Derry’s Gaza Five:

The boats were loaded with aid today and ready to leave for AL Arish, the plan was that we would meet them there, as we would fly to Al Arish and arrive before the boats.

However, the update is that the Israelis have just announced that they will be performing military operations in these waters and therefore the aid has no way of passing through these waters.

So there is no point getting flights to Al Arish tomorrow as the aid wont be arriving. Of course, it now seems highly unlikely that we will get to the Rafah crossing between the 3rd and 6th when Egypt said the gates would be open to us. The Convoy is now brought to a total standstill. The Israelis have pulled a very dirty tactic here if what we are hearing is true. For now this is all we are hearing. More updates when we get them.

Derry to Gaza Team

Day 28 – Saturday Jan 2 2010

PLEASE DONATE! Viva Palestina Emergency Appeal...

NEWS! Londonderry Sentinel: Gaza group fears more delays & Indymedia.ie:

The crossing will take 26 hours, having had a futher 8 hours added to it’s journey time by Israeli pressure. Tomorrow, over 500 members of the convoy will fly to El Arish and meet up with their vehicles. A plane has been charted by Viva Palestina, the Turkish and Malaysian Governments, and it will make 3 trips in order to fly everyone to Egypt…. – Read more…

NEWS! from Syria…


Al Watan interviews 10 Convoy’rs: Determination paves the way to Rafah

Champress: Artery of Life Convoy to Set off from Lattakia Towards the Egyptian Port of Areesh

SyriaNews.com: Convoy secures 3 ships for El-Arish

Teshreen: Convoy sailing from Lattakia

11pm:

UPDATE: tho the vehicles were safely loaded onboard, the weather turned crazy this evening forcing yet another delay in our sail! at the camp which is by the sea, winds were really strong and some plastic chairs toppled here and there. the waves were rough too. furthermore, EGY has not given members security clearance to land in Elarish whether by air or sea. we will be grounded here in Latakia for another day. clearly, this kind of mission is not for people who tak sabar. but it may also be the kind of mission that makes people more sabar, insyaAllah. what’s truly inspiring is that many if not most members here are on this trip at their own expense. they have they have dedicated time and money to be here. and despite EGY-Israel’s game and today, bad weather, they’re still determined to break the siege. many have kids and are away from them during Winter [North], Summer [South], Xmas and New Year holidays. sigh … my colleague @ramgk celebrated his birthday here, on the road. – @juanajaafar

10pm:

convoy members loaded vehicles onto TUR cargo ship today from 3pm to 7pm. ship is owned by TUR company and has full TUR crew onboard TUR has played a huge role in assisting the convoy financially and diplomatically, other than sending a large delegation which joined us in Istanbul. Viva had hoped to send at least 15 members onboard to help guard the vehicles. however, we were advised against it as sail regulations usually only allow trained crew onboard. but they did allow 2 members to join the crew as reps for convoy. there was mixed feelings today. on 1 hand we’re happy that there’s some movement for the convoy. on the other, we’re not all that thrilled to be separated from our vehicles. most of the vehicles were bought using funds donated by various donors and members hold a huge amanah to make sure the vehicles and aid arrive in Gaza safely. anything can happen at sea. Israel is known to roam international waters like it’s their playground. look up the DIGNITY + Free Gaza Movement which they rammed in the Med Sea. we’re hoping that since this is a TUR ship, and a big one, Israel will not kacau. but Israel is Israel and you should always expect the worst kind of tyranny from them. on the other hand, there’s the weather … – @juanajaafar

Entire convoy drove out of Palestinian refugee camp this afternoon to load onto the boat. Palestinians on both sides of the road all the way to port, hanging over bridges, waving, victory signs. Music and flags and sheer passion greeted us as we entered the port. Amazing atmosphere. We hope vehicles arrive safely. @Pal_S_Campaign

‘2 am’ in earlier tweet means ’til morning’! On ship 10-20 Turqs, 1 American No other internationals. 195 vehicles incl 47 fr USA on board … Thought from York … wouldn’t it have made sense to pack the ship with Americans? Better deterrent against Mediterranean pirates?

9pm:

Stormy weather. Ship delayed 2 am. Israel has extended its piracy zone making voyage longer. Noon briefing for travel update…. No-one from York or Bradford on ship. Only 2 Brits. – @YorktoGaza

7pm:

Press – once unload El Arish, then stringent customs – cd take 48 hrs – Egyptians are saying ONLY medical aid, nothing else.once cleared at El Arish Egyptians have given assurance that it will get through Rafah – but changing situation and no guarantees.

Sadly none of us are on board with yorktogaza ambulance. Hope to get plane tomorrow. We are not happy to leave the ambulance, but have no choice. Regulations! The ferry sailed at 7 pm… Press tv just got report fr convoy spokesperson – ship abt 2 leave, drivers & passengers 2 go by plane, will take abt 18 hrs dep on weather@YorktoGaza

5pm:

Sun, stormy sea. Waiting to go to port for ship to El Arish. Most or all of us will fly later.. Beans n chapattis for lunch… Morale good. Wonderful sense of camaraderie. – @YorktoGaza

Meeting at 9am,told vehicles r leaving at 12,now 5pm. Cleaned up van,packed belongings,we shud fly out sun or mon,watch this space! – @l2g09

PRESS RELEASE! Derry’s Gaza Five: A 72-Hour Critical Period…

RADIO! [Dec 27] Interview with Alice from Viva Palestina & Bob Lewis on BBC Radio Gloucestershire:


(Apologies to Abdur from Gloucester, your interview got cut off at the show switchover on the iPlayer)

12pm:

Ship due to leave pm then we leave by plane Sunday. Then, who knows! Nick is going on the ship with the ambulance. Americans have just arrived with 47 vehicles. 198 in convoy – @YorktoGaza

Movement at last! Convoy preparing to leave camp and head to the port. Vehicles, aid and some people should set sail soon. Kids in restaurant last night drew pictures for us to take to Gaza. Their mothers sent kisses via our cheeks. We will be there soon. – @Pal_S_Campaign

9am: Roll on… Maybe convoy will sail today?

BREAKING NEWS! We will be loading the vehicles and aid onto a Turkish flagged ship manned by a Turkish crew today and sail weather permitting. Some of the convoy members, will be on the ship! We will be sailing in commercial waters Will not be expecting any surprises during the approx 20 hour sail. We will not enter the waters of Occupied Palestine. Rest of the convoy will be flying into Al-Arish via chartered flight to coincide with the arrival of the ship!! Although we have not yet secured landing permission from the egyptian authorities. Remember the vehicles that were stranded in egypt during Viva Palestina 2? Turkey arranged for those vehicles 2b brought to us & 47 brand new vehicles have now joined our convoy!!47 new vehicles full of much needed aid! By Land, Sea and Air we lift the Siege of Gaza!@Peter2Gaza BLOG! Peter’s blog…

All vehicles n 15 volunteers to board cargo ship to leave this aftrn for El-Arish. Bad weather (#1#2) to add to perilous 22hr [journey] … Volunteers to fly by fleet of small planes from al-Ladhaqiya to El-Arish on Sun. Will then reunite with vehicles n aid… Insha-Allah! Ship will be flying Turkish flag, sailing thru Egptin n Intrntl Waters. So not likely to be attacked by Israel.. but Isrl is a rogue state! – @Zhat

NEWS! Latest Press TV reports:


Latest Convoy report from Lattakia

Press TV report on Jan 1st Gaza bombings

AFP: Israeli air force hits Gaza after rocket attack, 2 wounded & Al Jazeera: Israeli jets and tanks strike Gaza

UK’s Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Gaza convoy faces huge detour

Malaysia’s Star: PM’s wife and Mahathir recognised for helping Gaza aid convoy

Al Jazeera: Egypt’s bigger problem

Day 27 – Friday January 1 2010

Peace, Love & HAPPY NEW YEAR to You All.

PLEASE DONATE! Viva Palestina Emergency Appeal...

UK TV! Ross Kemp on Gaza?!

Let’s hope this isn’t another veiled hit-job on our Middle-EastEnders:


9pm Sun Jan 3, SKY ONE: Ross Kemp Middle East: Gaza With unprecedented access to all sides, this two-part series will offer insight into life in Gaza post Operation Cast Lead and detail what it’s like to live under the threat of terrorist attack in cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It explores the mindset of the men behind the violence, and highlights the experiences of those trapped in the middle.

11pm: Supertweet!

Salam from Latakia, SYR and Happy New Year to all. yes, we’re still in SYR!

we were at the doorstep of EGY just a couple of days ago, in Aqaba JOR. but EGY wouldn’t let us sail from Aqaba so we were stuck there a few days and then made to turn back to SYR! from Aqaba we were only 4 hours boatride and 4 hours drive away from Gaza. but EGY said it would only allow us to enter via the Mediterranean Sea into Elarish.

so we’ve driven over 500km back north to SYR and are now in the port town of Latakia where we hope to sail to EGY. other than making us do this long overland roundabout trip, they’ve also foced us to take on an 18-19 hour boatride to Elarish. a huge difference compared to sailing from Aqaba! amazing the power Israel has on EGY, eh?

we arrived in Latakia last night from Damascus and are putting up in a PLE refugee camp area in the outskirts of town. the PLEs were so happy to see us, and of course, grateful. but all the roundabouts have delayed and exhausted us physically and financially. still, members are determined to make it to Gaza. at a dinner briefing last night, Viva said we have been featured on many Arab news channels and our predicament has moved people from the Gulf states, Morocco, the US and Malaysia to assist us logistically and financially. with help from new donors as well as TUR and SYR govs, Viva is ABLE to secure a cargo boat for our vehicles. we hope to load the boat tomorrow [Sat] the boat can only take a small group of people who will be assigned to guard our vehicles. the rest of us will be boarding chartered flights to EGY.

thanx so much to all who have helped. this further shows that this mission is not about the 160+ vehicles and 400+ people on this convoy but a collective effort and a huge inter/multi-national MOVEMENT to free PLE. as Kevin says, by land, by air and by sea, we are determined to make our way to Gaza. convoy spent New Year’s eve in Latakia. some at the PLE camp around bonfire, others went to town to see how locals celebrate the New Year. followed the Bernama crew to town to shoot.

Interesting that NY celebrations here include shooting firecrakers into each other’s flats and cars. it was like a warzone, except people were happy. members who made it to town just hung out by the streets and watched. the mood was happy, but sober too. everyone’s tired and just looking forward to get the goods to Gaza. it doesn’t help that we got news the Gaza Freedom Marchers clashed with EGY police and some people got hurt. we saw that as a prelude to what may come our way when [if?!] we get to EGY. it really is amazing how far EGY would go for Israel. – @juanajaafar

UK NEWS! Coventry Telegraph: Warwick University students in Gaza protest trip ordeal

6pm: Sailing Saturday? Maritime weather #1#2

Planning to load vehicles tomorrow. Having big feast tonight. – @YorktoGaza

NEWS!

IHH: Palestine convoy arrives in Latakia

Palestine Think Tank: Egypt lacks the milk of human kindness

World Bulletin: Viva Palestina convoy in struggle to find new ships to take Egypt & Turkish ship to carry Viva Palestina convoy to Egypt

Lebanon’s Daily Star: Israel declares war on int’l peace NGOs

Malaysia’s New Straits Times: Stuffed with toys for Gaza children

2pm:

Malaysian rep – We will raise the Palestinian flag high. Says his dream is to touch Palestinian soil and pray at Als Aqsa one day… Last night in Latakia, so many Palestinians invited us into their homes for dinner, for hospitality. Thank you… Kevin’s speech – Palestine is now the flag for anyone with honour in the world. We will never forget your faces… Happy New Year. May 2010 bring the Palestinians closer to the freedom, peace and justice they so deserve.At rally for VP in Latakia. Malaysian rep in convoy speaks of Malaysia’s determination + passion for justice in Palestine – @Pal_S_Campaign

12pm:

Just had dinner with lovely Palestinian family in Lattakia refugee camp. Time 2 build a new years eve fire on beach now. – @Joti2Gaza

Good morning, slept well in basic chalet. Now off 2 town! Vehicles sail Saturday 4 El Arish . May still go by ship w vehicle – @YorktoGaza

@zhat ended 2009 for us, and to kick off 2010 he nails it again:

As the world celebrates a New Year, 8000+ inhabitants of al-Ayedoun Refugee Camp, Syria write off yet another year in exile. How cruel?!

Yet another change of gameplan: ferry to El-Arish will not carry passengers, only vehicles! All convoy volunteers must therefore FLY to … @Zhat (Thank you x 2010)

BLOG! Derry to Gaza…

We have been in a bit of a situation on this blog. We have friends on both the Code Pink Gaza Freedom March (stranded and protesting in Egypt) and also on the Viva Palestina Convoy waiting for boats to go to Al Arish from Syria. Because of the volatile situation in Egypt we have devoted more time to monitoring that situation than reporting on our Irish boys from Derry. So we plan to do some catching up on the Viva Palestina convoy now because they are about to face a trying and dangerous time.

So let us introduce the “Derry to Gaza” team; Danny Doyle, Edward McBride, Derek McChrystal, Eanna O’Donaghaile and Jonathan CrockettRead more…

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