DAYS 30-31: Lattakia (& Damascus) to El-Arish

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31 days – 12 Countries – 4,134 Miles

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NEWS FROM THE ROAD...

Day 31 – Tuesday Jan 5 2010

11pm: Reinforcements moving in…

Riot cops have moved their barriers and look to be gearing up 4 a fight. Our boys preparing to defend the port. – @Joti2Gaza

Nothin hapnin at d moment,sitting at entrance in d sand facing egyptian riot police(ants)taking it in turns to read Quran Slight chill in d air,waitin4outcome of negotiations,turkish officials r coreesponding with egyptians as we wait. Police have blocked entrance and more reinforcements seem to be pouring in. – @l2g09

NEWS! Latest Press TV report

10pm: Another siege?!

2hrs ago we were all cleared thru,protests were on the brink of violence,negotiations began,silently protesting awaiting outcome. we have been confined to a carpark in arish,not permiting all vehicles thru2gaza,fire engines r ready to spray us with water! – @l2g09

BLOG! Derry to Gaza: Negotiations underway again…

Convoy blocked from Gaza. Stand-off w Egyptian riot cops/water canon. Peaceful sit-down at mo. Protests called round world. – @Joti2Gaza

big trouble happening now. convoy surrounded by riot squad negotiations broken off BRB will try to get more am trying to get them back on phone, utter chaos in background – @Irish4Palestine

Riot cops! And a water cannon truck just arrived. Dejavu ke? Okay damn, a water tank size of 16 wheel petroleum carrier just arrived. @juanajaafar

CALL!
Egyptian Embassy

020 7499 3304 +

UK FCO 020 7008 1500

BBC 03700 100 222

8pm: FANFARE!

Full scale protest at compound n full scale riot police in huge numbers waiting! This will get ugly tonite. All we want is ALL vhcls! – @Zhat

The gates have been blocked by autho cars and hundreds of riot police waiting outside! Members are getting anxious…

BLOG! Joti2Gaza: Waiting and more waiting beside the sea

Yay! All members are together now as last batch rolls in! We going by the minute now. Autho may impose all sorts on new rules on us like… Drive in the mid of night so public can’t see us; no fanfare. Some say they may not let all vehicles out so looks like convoy is small… But rumour has it there’s pizza in the Welsh caravan so am gonna head there :] – @juanajaafar

this midnight run plan is confirmed by a quote from an Egypt Daily News report:

The heavy security presence was because the authorities did not want any demonstrations or processions taking place around the convoy, according to North Sinai Tagammu party member Khalil Jabr Sawarkeh: “They want it to get to Gaza with minimal fanfare,” he told Daily News Egypt, “and they will probably let them enter Rafah during the night to limit any involvement from people in the area.”

NEWS! Latest PressTV reports from El-Arish


#1 @1500GMT – ‘Excitement’ in El Arish

#2 @1700GMT – Hassan Ghani’s update

6pm:

Some have received their passports but we have to ensure we receive all of them, will let you know when we’re all clear. – @l2g09

… Friends from BEL just made pasta using burner! Mmm, warm food! People here have been so generous, especially with food. @juanajaafar

RADIO! YorktoGaza interview on BBC Radio York


(only the last 3mins – we’ll have the full interview later)

Well done on Radio York AGAIN, Heather! All York now waiting for the next instalment! Can they make it? YES THEY CAN!… Poor Nick on way home just got to Sharm el Sheikh airpt 2 learn flight cancelled cos of snow in Manchstr. In hotel til 2moro. Bit like VP! – @YorktoGaza

5pm: What’s for dinner?

We’re not sure if we’re going to Gaza today. Sun already setting here at port. 3rd batch of members given trouble at airport but after few Hours they were let out. 2 jangguts passports were not returned. Still waiting for final batch to get in. Security is tight here. It’s getting cold too. And we’ve chucked out our mouldy breads. Eee. Maybe we’ll eat the guards :) @juanajaafar

4pm:

York to Gaza are still in the El Arish compound with the ambulance – waiting. Spoke with Heather on phone abt 10 mins ago – Carol 1458 GMT – @YorktoGaza

Chaos multiplied! Self stick visas being sold for $15.Still we have no passports n now they hve run out of visa stickers! Great Rep of Egypt? – @Zhat

we are leaving right now to travel the last 11 miles to the Rafah crossing where we expect serious negotiations. The last hurdle in a long journey… UPDATE Still at Al Arish, Negotiaions are under way. Egyptians tying to move the goalposts again. All in all we expect to enter early tomorrow morning for possible 24 hours stay inside Gaza. That’s all for now The 5 Boys – @Irish4Palestine

Previous grp who have been waitin 6hrs just got their passports back as we landed. 2brits n 5turks have not yet recieved theirs from 1st grp The reason for the delay is unknown, egypt authorities are not commenting, people are lost! Still waiting for passports,former group r refusing 2 board buses until every1 recieves passports. A scuffle was about to break out between some members of convoy and egyptian police, which was triggered when egyptian police forced some egyptian police forced some members on the bus causing an individual to hurt his hand. Viva palestina are engaged in negotiations with egyptian officials regarding the vehicles. – @l2g09

we are 40 miles from gaza. waiting for clearance from al arish port wish us luck! – @PGPOrg

3pm:

new msg from friends leaving for rafah soon… Galloway said expect battle at the border. more later… – @Irish4Palestine

TUNES! Lowkey’s “Long Live Palestine” available now from iTunes & Tesco

2pm: El-Arish Reunited! thanks to ChamWings

Mike says ambulance and its contents are fine: We are at the docks and ready to go – @YorktoGaza

We in airport at El-Arish. Abso chaos n pandemonium! Abundance of uniforms yet not one is doing anything other than shouting. – @Zhat

Those who woke early and wanted breakfast were only allowed out in groups and with police escort. Basically, we’ve been under house arrest! We’re on the bus to go meet with other group members. We just got call, the delayed batches have arrived! Aaaaa! Ommigod! The bus took us to the port! We’re at the gate, can see our vehicles inside! Yay!!!… Wonderful news! The 47 USA vehicles impounded by EGY autho since July 2009 are here! @juanajaafar

Whole convoy now in Al-Arish – waiting for passports to be returned -hope to be reunited with vehicles today – @Pal_S_Campaign

We just landed safely in Arish,we r yet2go thru customs.The other grps r in hotels waitin4us.This is d last flight,IA it all goes smoothly. – @l2g09

1pm: More arrivals at El-Arish…

First planeload of convoy volunteers landed in El-Arish. Second load’s been diverted 2 Damascus owing 2 engine trouble. Grr. 2nd plane landed @ El-Arish after a detour via Damascus 2 fix engine. Waiting 2b allowed 2join 1st group + wait 4 remaining. Still in El-Arish airport. Visas being sorted. Hopefully last planeload of convoy mems will land soon. Waiting, waiting. – @Joti2Gaza

12pm: Last group from Lattakia enroute to El Arish…

At last: on flt from Al-Ladhaqiya to El-Arish! 1hr flying time n then action begins again when in Egypt! – @Zhat

We are fine. Expect to go to port at 11 your time then to Rafah. – @YorktoGaza

BLOG! Update from Derry to Gaza, stranded Damascus with the underfueled(?) Skywings plane, now arrived in El Arish:

Just arrived in Al Arish. other squad got passports back last night & stayed in hotel. So we’re sitting waiting for luggage here and hoping for the best. We won’t move till rest of convoy comes – @Irish4Palestine

11am: @El-Backpackers

G’morning from an Elarish back alley backpacker’s. We checked in at bout 3am after 9 hours of waiting for our passports in cold and Hard arrival hall. Seems unlikely we’re going to Rafah today as last batch of us yet to arrive here after plane tech problems last night. – @juanajaafar

NEWS!

UK’s Press Association: Gaza activists in passport protest

Egypt’s Daily News: Viva Palestina convoy arrives in Egypt after long delay

Socialist Worker: Viva Palestina mission to Gaza

Malaysia’s Bernama: Passports Of Viva Palestina Convoy Members Seized

Maan: Galloway convoy plans Gaza entry & Egypt opens Rafah crossing for third day

Epoch Times: Egypt Opens Gaza Border Crossing Amid Controversy

World Bulletin: Senior Turkish official to hold talks in Gaza

10am: Coffee? Tea?

We are now under hotel arrest! Not sure what next… Nick has gone to Sharm Al Sheikh airport to get his flight home. He has had to take a VERY expensive taxi and has a police escort!… Heather, Steve & Mike tried to go out for a coffee but got turned back by police. Negotiations going on. – @YorktoGaza

PRESS RELEASE! Malaysia’s PACE: Decries The Move To Close The Life-Line Tunnel Through Gaza And Urge The Egyptian Government To Let The Viva Palestina Convoy To Pass With Ease

9am: on the Beach…

Staying in Sinai Beach Hotel-doesnt live up to name Feel better after sleep & shower Hoping to meet rest of convoy, destination Gaza Nick has now left the group to catch flight he had booked for home – back when we all expected the convoy to reach Gaza 9 days ago – @YorktoGaza

8am: Lattakians Damascans on a plane!

FINALLY ON PLANE! Not sure what time is the departure! but on the plane! Thanks to the Turkish Brothers! They started a spontaneous protest against the delays at the airport! The root of the delay was then revealed: the chartercompany, Skywings, had “forgotten” to refuel our plane!@Peter2Gaza

7am: to the Hotel…

Detained at airport. Lots of noise. Protest. Am ok. Have found a place on the floor. Noisy protest worked. Passports back. Now going to hotel. – @YorktoGaza

6am: Passports returned…

After 9 hours, we got back our passports. Now heading to hotels in busses. – @juanajaafar

PRESS RELEASE! VP WIN AIRPORT BATTLE…

Looks like we can rest easy tonight… BUT be ready to CALL!

Egyptians have now agreed to allow us2wait 4 rest of convoy b4 getting us2vehicles 2drive2Rafah. Result! News: Convoyers left in Lathakia will be getting a flight at 6am to get to Al-Arish! – @Pal_S_Campaign

NEWS! Latest Press TV interview with Hassan Ghani in El-Arish:

NEWS! Southern California Public Radio: Egypt Temporarily Lifts Gaza Border Restrictions

1am: No way Hosné!

Egyptian demand of handing over all aid to UNWRA has resurfaced despite earlier ratified agrmnt with Turkey! No way Jose!! – @Zhat

Egypt madness: 1st flight in Egypt landed; Egyptians stamped passport in&OUT-(Illegal!)¬ returning them. 2nd flight to Al-Arish had to be stopped in Damascus bcos of engine problems. Trying to get another one. 3rd&4th flight passengers still stuck in Lathakia:trying to get another plane to take us2 Al-Arish, poss from Cyprus@Pal_S_Campaign

from Lattakia: Trying to sleep before flight at 3am, feeling v.ill due to food poisoning! – @l2g09

Day 30 – Monday Jan 4 2010

UPDATE!

EGY and Viva came to agreement. EGY’ll remove exit stamp on passports & allow mbers to go to hotel while waiting for next 3 flights – @juanajaafar

CALL YOUR LOCAL BBC STATIONS! – It works:

BBC Radio York mentioned yorktogaza‘s convoy group’s plight on 10 o’clock news and will be ringing for update in the morning – 10pm news:

+ Just recorded interview w Radio York for AM prog tmrw. Earlier they flashed the story to the entire BBC network – Will they pick it up? Carol@YorktoGaza **Contact List for BBC local Radio Stations…**

11pm: NEWSFLASH! CONVOY STUCK AT EL-ARISH AIRPORT. PLEASE ALERT ALL MEDIA TO GET OUR PASSPORTS BACK!

Mike: The Egyptian authorities have betrayed the assurances they gave to the convoy in allowing them to land at El Arish … Passports were taken, visas paid for, then they were given exit visas & told must go direct to Gaza. Passports have not been returned … 120 or so convoy members now staging sit in at El Arish demanding that convoy be allowed to proceed all together as agreed by Eg authorities… Egyptian authorities are now playing the Israelis game. All assurances have been betrayed. Expect to spend night in airport. – @YorktoGaza

Press TV reporting disputes over demands for charge of $27000 for port services which wd not have been incurred but for enforced diversions Press TV also reporting some 60 vehicles are being refused permission to proceed, incl a US vehicle, Turk sat broadcasting one, & all 4x4s – @YorktoGaza

Mad noise as members bang and stamp their feet, against chairs. Booing. Whistling. It’s more than 5 hours since EGY took our passports! EGY trying to break our convoy. We just told airport immigration wanna give exit stamp on passports and forcing our batch straight to Gaza. But Viva told autho we have bout 350 bro and sis who aren’t here yet and we not moving without them. This is what they did to the Gaza Freedom March; allowing a handful in and blocking the rest to make the support for Gaza look small. Memang setan. – @juanajaafar

… as we approached airport we wer told that the previous flight encountered sme tech problems & was forced to land in damascus. efforts r being made to reschedule a flight.ther r rumours that a plane is being brought frm Beirut. – @l2g09

10pm: The adventure continues!

Second 8pm flight was unable to land at Al-Arish due to engine trouble. Everyone is OK. The left-engine displayed problems on the flight. At approximately 20 minutes from Al-Arish, our plane was sent back to Syria and has landed safely in Damascus. We flew back on one engine, with superb flight control by the captain! Syria loves us too much and wont let us go. but we will b on the next flight to Al-Arish & get there as soon as possible Inshallah. your prayers help keep us safe! – @Peter2Gaza

2nd of 4 flights diverted to Damascus due to technical problems. Airplane grounded till further notice. We returning to basecamp. – @Zhat

Meanwhile… in Egypt…(!)

We’ve been at arrival waiting lounge more than 4 hours and they’ve still not returned our passports. Members and singing slogans asking for Passports back. 2nd group arrival delayed as plane had tech prob and had to land in Sham to change planes. Some members got food poisoning from yesterday and are flat out. Chant: “Let us! Let us! Let us go to Gaza!” “What do we want? Passports! When do we want it? Now!”@juanajaafar

and…(!)

Press TV also reporting some 60 vehicles are being refused permission to proceed, incl a US vehicle, Turk sat broadcasting one, & all 4x4s – @crookedrib

NEWS!

Press TV: Viva Palestina arrives in Egypt to enter Gaza

World Bulletin: 5 Turkish MPs to enter Gaza with Viva Palestina convoy in Egypt

East London Advertiser: Aid convoy just hours away from Gaza

Maan: Galloway Gaza convoy leaves Syria

RADIO! Viva Palestina a Convoy gets on NPR (US):

Egypt Opens Gaza Border Crossing (VP@48s)

*their very own GFM didn’t even get a mentioned(!) via @ericverlo

5pm: First group arrives… expect a Supertweet™ shortly ;)

Alhamdullillah, the first batch of us have landed in Elarish EGY. Data services = can Tweet! – @juanajaafar

BLOGS! Student Respect: Viva Palestina spends New Year’s Eve with Palestinian families in Syrian refugee camps & MEMO: we will be in Gaza by Tuesday

2pm: On the way to the airport: 450 people, 1 plane, 4 flights@4pm+8pm+12am+4am more from Derry to Gaza…

In bus f Latakia airport after Galloway speech. Sunny day, mood chirpy, crowd at gate, engine running, horns, flags, now we’re rolling! – @YorktoGaza

Boat arrived in El-Arish +cleared customs. 1st planeload of convoy mems at airport. Fingers crossed we all make it thru 2day. Tea+chat w lovely Syrian fam last nite, then slept, showered + washed clothes in Palestinian home. Such generous hospitality. – @Joti2Gaza

PRESS RELEASE! from Viva Palestina:

Kevin Ovenden, convoy organiser, said: “Despite all the difficulties, by land, by sea and by air, we are within 24hrs of breaking the siege of Gaza.”

“We now have every right to expect unhindered and safe passage into Gaza, but we call on all our friends internationally to stand ready to raise their voices if we face further unjustified delay.

NEWS! Malaysia’s Bernama: Viva Palestina Cargo Ship Arrives Safely At El-arishport In Egypt & World Bulletin: Jordanians call on Egypt to honor Muslim obligation over Gaza

12pm: All Clear!

Preparing to fly this afternoon. Vehicles have all cleared customs in Egypt. Inshallah, we’ll breathe the air of Gaza tomorrow. – @Pal_S_Campaign

11am: Customs clearances in progress! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MIKE@YorktoGaza

York to Gaza will be on the first flight at 2 pm UK time. Our ambulance has already cleared customs. We are excited at the prospect of getting close to our goal.@YorktoGaza

Ship docked in El-Arish n all vehicles succesfully rolled off. 4 flights over next 18hrs to take all pxngs. Grp-E due to dep at midnite. … – @Zhat

NEWS! Xinhua: “Viva Palestina 3″ convoy reaches Egyptian port

THANKS! To ULUSOY-6’s Captain Bahadir & Crew!

Dear Convoy: a message from Noam Chomsky!

… Despite the media blackout, which is a disgrace, this is turning out to be a really spectacular triumph, I think, and it’s hard to express properly my admiration and respect for those who are directly engaged.

It has to be a shot in the arm for the people in Gaza, and might stir up some opposition to the dictatorship in Egypt, which is exposing its brutality daily — to everyone except the US media (hope it’s better elsewhere). And I think a lot of people are going to come back home really invigorated.

Good luck in what lies ahead.

(via Viva Palestina – Don’t miss Chomsky’s talk: “Gaza: One Year Later” & essay published during Cast Lead: “Exterminate all the Brutes“)

1am:

News that the ferry has docked safely in Egypt, and is going through customs. We fly tomorrow. So close, so close. – @Pal_S_Campaign

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« Day 32: El-Arish to GAZA!

Days 27-29: Lattakia to El-Arish »

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