- Life Style
A convoy bound for Gaza, organised by nine Muslim Brotherhood and independent parliamentarians, is on its way to the Rafah crossing point, said Muslim Brotherhood MP Mohamed el-Beltagy, leader of the convoy. El-Beltagy, speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm by phone en route to Rafah, denied reports that the aid convoy had been stopped in its tracks by Egyptian authorities.
El-Beltagy said it had been stopped at checkpoints twice for less than two hours each time, "perhaps in a tactic to delay us, so that we won't report on the conditions of traffic between Gaza and Egypt through Rafah or so that we won't reach Rafah on time while the crossing gates are still open."
During the stops, the convoy was searched, perhaps as a regular procedure, and phone calls between top security officials in Cairo and local authorities in North Sinai took place while the convoy waited, said el-Beltagy. "They claimed they had no prior instruction to let the convoy pass."
Currently, the convoy is 60km away from the city of Arish. The MPs' attempt to bring aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip follows an Israeli military attack on a Turkish aid flotilla in international waters, an attack that shocked the international community and left at least nine activists dead.
The Egyptian aid convoy is more of a "symbolic gesture," consisting of only 200 tonnes of steel and cement, in an attempt to break the economic siege on Gaza which has been in effect since 2008, said el-Beltagy. "People wanted to give more but we thought we should test whether we can get this small amount across first before we accept any more donations."
According to Amnesty International, Israel's military blockade of Gaza "has left more than 1.4 million Palestinian men, women and children trapped in the Gaza Strip, an area of land just 40km long and 9.5km wide. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid."
According to the human rights watchdog, Israel's actions are "a form of collective punishment" and "flagrant violation of international law," made worse by the Egyptian's government closure of the crossings between Gaza and Egypt.