Egyptian police, activists clash over Gaza relief

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-01-06


British MP George Galloway


55 people injured as activists try to get relief convoy into Israeli-besieged Gaza via Egypt.

EL-ARISH, Egypt – About 55 people were injured late Tuesday in clashes between Egyptian police and pro-Palestinian activists trying to get a relief convoy into the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip, medics said.

Some 520 activists belonging to the convoy — led by charismatic and outspoken British MP George Galloway — broke down the gate at the port in El-Arish to protest an Egyptian decision to ship some of the goods through Israel.

They blocked the two entrances to the Sinai port with vehicles, and clashed with police. Forty activists were injured, a source close to them said, while medical sources said 15 policemen were also hurt.

The protests were sparked by an Egyptian decision to allow 139 vehicles to enter Gaza through the Rafah bordering crossing, about 45 kilometres (30 miles) from El-Arish, but requiring a remaining 59 vehicles to pass via Israel.

Talks in which Galloway and a delegation of Turkish MPs sought to change the Egyptian’s minds proved unsuccessful.

Early Wednesday the activists were entrenched in the port surrounded by hundreds of police, one media correspondent said.

The convoy of nearly 200 vehicles arrived in the Mediterranean town on Monday after a dispute with Cairo on the route.

But the convoy’s arrival came after a bitter dispute between its organisers and the government, which banned the convoy from entering Egypt’s Sinai from Jordan by ferry, forcing it to drive north to the Syrian port of Lattakia.

Cairo accused the convoy organisers of trying to embarrass Egypt, which has refused to permanently open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, due to US-Israeli pressure.

According to international law, Gaza is still under illegal Israeli occupation.

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