Activists in battle at Gaza border crossing
Activists in battle at Gaza border crossing

Clashes erupted on the Gaza side of the Egyptian-Gaza border this week as more than 500 activists of the ‘Viva Palestina’ aid convoy on the Egyptian side of the frontier sought entry into the Gaza Strip.

Several members of the convoy have been injured, many of them seriously.

The convoy, which includes a number of Irish people, is taking relief supplies to Palestinians in the strip, which is blockaded. The siege is being maintained by the Israeli government but with support from the Egypt in the south of the strip.

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign said the aid convoy finally crossed the border at Rafah and arrived in Gaza shortly after 7pm (Irish time), a month after the convoy set off on its journey.

There were a number of casualties when Egyptian police fired into a crowd of several hundred protesters as the aid convoy was blocked from entering Gaza.

Egyptian police, who had taken up positions on the top of apartment blocks less than 100 metres from the border, shot live rounds and tear gas grenades into the gathering.

In Egypt’s el-Arish port where the convoy was earlier stalled, John Hurson from County Tyrone said the organisers of the convoy had finally reached a deal with the Egyptian authorities which would permit the activists and most of the vehicles to enter Gaza today.

“We will move this evening to border and enter Gaza in the dark,” Mr Hurson said. “Aid convoys always enter Gaza in the dark to cut down on media coverage.”

However, some sixty vehicles loaded with electricity generator, ambulances and four-wheel drive cars were refused entry following Israeli objections.

All those taking part in the Viva Palestina convoy rejected the Egyptian proposal to hand the 59 heavy lorries over to Israel which operates the goods crossings into Gaza. “We refuse to ask permission from Israel,” said Mr Hurson.

Israel has a history of refusing to live up to its promises in this regard.

The activists, including international lawmakers, had been promised at the end of last month that all the lorries would be allowed to proceed to the Strip.

The activists, including international lawmakers, accuse the Egyptians of reneging on an agreement to allow the aid convoy to enter Gaza and of complicity with Israel’s tight blockade.

Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Aengus O Snodaigh TD called on Minister Micheal Martin to make contact with the Egyptian Government in order to ensure the safety of a number of Irish citizens who are part of the convoy.

“Members of the Viva Palestina convoy are simply attempting to get much needed medical supplies to the people of Gaza. The aggressive behaviour of the Egyptian authorities towards this peace convoy is unacceptable.

“Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin must make urgent contact with his Egyptian counterpart to ensure the safety of the Irish members of this group.”

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