The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has finally given permission for the American Viva Palestinian convoy to enter Gaza. The convoy plans to depart their location in Cairo at 5 am Egyptian times and travel up to the border with Rafah at Al Arish, where the group plans to take dozens of wheel chairs and walkers, two ambulances, $250,000 of medical supplies, and other humanitarian goods to Gaza. The goal is to break the Israeli directed siege of Gaza, which has produced desperate conditions for the 1.4 million men, women, and children.
When the first contingent attempted to cross the Mubarak Peace Bridge to the Sinai peninsula Saturday evening, they were denied entry. That group spent 12 hours at the checkpoint and entered into a stand-off
with authorities as they negotiated the length of their stay in successive increments. Members of the delegation demonstrated at the bridge, obstructing access to the vehicles, and also held keys and occupied driver’s seats in order that the 4 buses could not be moved.
Although Egyptian officials first stated that the convoy could not pass due to unrest in the region and potential danger to the delegates, ultimately Viva Palestina was informed that each of its members required a Gaza affidavit signed and notarized by an official at the U.S. Embassy in order to pass.
That contingent decided to return to Cairo to obtain the affidavits and regroup with other delegates, thereby strengthening their numbers for the next crossing.
The Gaza affidavits are essentially indemnity agreements asserting that the individual has signed away the inalienable right to the protection of the U.S. government. There are reports that at least some previous delegations of U.S. citizens to Gaza have not been required to sign these, and these were not requested prior to reaching the Mubarak Bridge checkpoint, despite Viva Palestina’s well-publicized plan.
Yesterday, Egyptian officials asked for a detailed inventory of all aid items, which has now been compiled and will be submitted to border officials at the Rafah crossing.
Late this afternoon, the Head of the Palestine Desk of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who has been tasked by the Foreign Minister with logistical planning, informed convoy leadership that only the 2 ambulances, of the 47 total vehicles which were purchased earlier in the day at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, would be allowed to enter Gaza. The people of Gaza, with whom MP Galloway has been in frequent contact, have indicated that new vehicles are sorely needed in Gaza for various public services.