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Irish in Xmas humanitarian bid to break siege of Gaza hindered by Egypt

category international | rights, freedoms and repression | feature author Saturday December 26, 2009 22:55author by Fintan Lane - IPSC media officerauthor phone 087 1258325 Report this post to the editors

The Israeli siege of Gaza must end

featured image
Huge crowd welcomes Gaza convoy in Amman, Jordan

Following several months of fundraising, four teams from across Ireland departed on Saturday, 5 December, to travel 4,000 miles across land to Gaza in Palestine to deliver ambulances and humanitarian aid to the besieged people of that tiny region. Concerned Irish citizens from Cork, Derry, Dublin, Galway and Tyrone are bringing two ambulances, a mini-bus, and a truck filled with over 10 tonnes of humanitarian aid.

The Irish participants decided to abandon their Christmas celebrations and family gatherings in Ireland this year because they feel so strongly about what is happening in Gaza.

They have received considerable support and encouragement from well-known public figures such as Prof. Noam Chomsky and Proinsias De Rossa MEP (SEE HERE).

After leaving Ireland, they linked up with the ‘Viva Palestina Convoy’ in Britain and more than 100 vehicles set off on 6 December for the long overland journey through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

Video footage of the convoy entering Turkey on Tuesday, 15 December, showing Irish citizens from Cork and Derry, is available (SEE HERE)

The convoy then entered Syria, after 14 days on the road, before moving into Jordan, where they received a huge welcome in Amman with large crowds attending a solidarity reception. For a report on the welcome in Amman, Jordan, (SEE HERE)

The convoy, however, has since run into serious difficulties as it attempted to enter Egypt for the last leg of its journey to the border with Gaza. Despite interventions by many human rights activists and even by Irish Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea (SEE HERE)

It appears that the Egyptian government is intent on hindering the humanitarian convoy and is also consciously undermining the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ planned for 31 December (SEE HERE).

On Christmas Day, Cork convoy participant Kate O’Sullivan published the following plea on the 'Viva Palestina Cork’ Facebook page

“Hi! The convoy needs help!! We are currently stranded in Jordan because the Egyptians won't leave us in so we need everyone to email the Egyptian embassies to pressure them. Please word emails politely but firmly. We all have visas so they should not be able to do this but they are. Let's pressure them into doing what right and let's get this aid into Gaza!

Please contact the Egyptian Embassies (Contact information in Link box above)

Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether the Egyptian government will relent and allow the aid convoy to proceed. The plan is to reach the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on 27 December.

Their arrival on this date is symbolic as it marks the first anniversary of the beginning of Israeli assault on Gaza last year, which left over 1,400 people dead, including more than 300 children, and over 5,000 injured.

The situation in Gaza remains dire as this small area of Palestine is under permanent siege by Israeli forces and is sealed off from the outside world. Michael Martin, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, recently became one of the many refused permission to visit the area. Homes, hospitals, schools and mosques still lie in rubble, and Israel continues to restrict the entry of basic goods such as fuel, medical equipment, oxygen, baby food, paper, books and construction materials. There is a concerted effort underway by the Israeli state to force the people of the area into submission.

In total, 12 Irish people are on the ground participating in these attempts to help break the siege of Gaza. Tyrone man David Callendar outlined his reasons for travelling when he spoke of seeing a young child in Palestine holding a sign at a demonstration two years ago:

“I saw a young boy of about 7 or 8 holding a sign that said ‘Where is the world?’ This is a very common question in Palestine and, for me, being part of the ‘Viva Palestina Convoy’ makes that little boy’s sign bigger, brighter and louder.”

On 27 December, more Irish citizens – including members of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) – will fly out to Cairo to meet up with the Irish convoy participants. Together, they will attempt to enter Gaza and the intention was, on 31 December, to join thousands of people from Gaza and across the world in the ‘Gaza Freedom March’. Unfortunately, it now appears that the Egyptian government is doing everything in its power to frustrate the international delegations from reaching Gaza for the march. Consequently, march organisers are planning commemorative Gaza solidarity events to be held within Egypt if they are not allowed to proceed to the besieged territory.

Among those taking part from Ireland will be John Hurson, Ger Cassidy, Hilary Minch, Zoe Lawlor, Caiomhe Butterly, Kate O’Sullivan, David Callendar and Deirdre Morgan.

According to Dublin IPSC member Hilary Minch, who was to be one of the Irish participants in the march, “Despite calls for justice, in spite of the flagrant violations of international law by Israel, the siege continues. Do we stay silent? Do we continue to look the other way? I don’t believe it is acceptable to bury our heads while the people of Palestine suffer horribly.”

It is not certain now that Hilary will be allowed leave Egypt for Gaza.

The demand of the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ on 31 December is simple: that the government of Israel opens the borders and ends the illegal collective punishment of the 1.5 million civilians of Gaza. The ‘Gaza Freedom March’ is a grassroots global response to the inaction on the part of world leaders and institutions.

Among the distinguished international participants will be 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker.

Inside Gaza, excitement over this event has been intense. Representatives from all segments of civil society, including students, professors, refugee groups, unions, women's organisations and NGOs, are busy organising and estimate that at least 50,000 Palestinians would participate. “We are moved by the tremendous response to this march and are heartened that the global community has not forgotten us,” said Haidar Eid, a member of the Organising Committee in Gaza.

It would be shameful if Egypt destroyed this international act of solidarity.

It is not clear how events will unfold over the next few days, but the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) is calling on Egypt to clear the way for both the convoy and the participants in the ‘Gaza Freedom March’ to enter Gaza. The current behaviour of the Egyptian government is a disgraceful attempt to undermine the Palestinian people of Gaza and will simply further their sense of isolation and abandonment. The siege of Gaza must be lifted.

The next few days will be crucial and it is essential that Irish people make their voices heard in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Contact the media and demand that these events be fully reported on. And contact the Egyptian embassy (address above) and insist that the convoy and march be allowed to proceed!

For regular updates on the convoy, go to Ireland to Gaza Facebook Page

Cork convoy participants with George Galloway MP in Jordan
Cork convoy participants with George Galloway MP in Jordan

Galloway addresses the crowd in Amman
Galloway addresses the crowd in Amman

author by stephen crockett - derry to gazapublication date Sat Dec 26, 2009 14:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Great to see that the people of Ireland, both thoses in the convoy and the thousands of supporters are playing a part in relieving the crisis in Gaza. Every bit of effort and help goes a long way in breaking the siege and changing the attitutes of those who cannot see with clarity the plight of the Palestinians, but most of all in bringing help to the men, women and children who continue to suffer in Gaza. DOIRE ABU

author by Kev - IPSC (pers cap)publication date Sat Dec 26, 2009 17:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Egyptian Embassy in Amman, Jordan Embassy of Egypt in Jordan

Riyad el-Mefleh St., No. 14 Between 4th and 5th Circles

P.O.Box: 3517811180 City: Amman

Phone: +96-26-5605175 / +96-26-5605176 / +96-26-5605202 / +96-26-5605203

Fax: +96-26- 5604082

Office Hours: Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m

Address: Embassy of Ireland, 22 Hassan Assem St, Zamalek, Cairo

Telephone:+202 27358264 Visa Phone:+202 27356417 Fax:+202 27362863


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author by Viva Palestinepublication date Sat Dec 26, 2009 18:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Viva Palestina Convoy Halted – Six Palestinians Killed


The convoy of international aid destined for the besieged people of the Gaza Strip in occupied Palestine was, on Thursday evening [December 24], prevented by the Egyptian government from entering the country.

The Irish contingent left Dublin on December 4 and had travelled through England, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Jordan before being refused entry by Egyptian authorities.

Around 250 vehicles from across Europe and the United States, with groups from Malaysia and South Africa among others, are now trapped in Aqaba, Jordan.

In every country, the Viva Palestina convoy had been warmly welcomed by international solidarity activists and members of local Palestinian communities.

The only incident before now occurred in Austria, where several crews were stopped by police and their drivers fined for the vehicles being overweight. Suffice to say, those drivers were proud of that particular run-in with the law.

There had been some concern over the attitude the government of Egypt would take to the convoy. The Rafah crossing is the only means of entering Gaza not under direct Israeli control, but the border gate has been locked down by the Egyptian government for over two years.

Though the two previous convoys had succeeded in travelling through Rafah, given Egypt’s good relations with US imperialism and the zionist settler state it was known that they had come under extra pressure to prevent this aid convoy from reaching its destination.

The Egyptian government has placed several conditions on the Viva Palestina convoy if it wishes to enter. It has declared that the convoy may not enter Egypt through the port at Nuweiba, the nearest town to the convoy’s location, but instead must get a ferry past Nuweiba, travelling down the entire east coastline then back up the west coast through the Suez Canal and on to the northern port of El Arish. This route will add another 500 miles to the convoy’s journey.

The Egyptian government has also said that the Viva Palestina convoy must not donate the vehicles and hundreds of tonnes of aid it has gathered directly to the people of Gaza, but that it must hand over everything to the UNRWA.

The government has also demanded that the convoy must ask the permission of Israel to enter Gaza via Egypt. This demand by a supposedly independent government has caused disgust among the hundreds of people participating in the convoy, and outrage throughout the Arab world. Needless to say, these conditions have been rejected outright.

People are being asked to contact their Egyptian embassy to express their outrage at Egypt’s refusal to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza and for their subservience to Israeli interests. In Dublin, the Egyptian embassy can be contacted by phone at 0(0353) 1 6606718 and 0(0353) 1 6606566 or emailed at

As this stalemate drags on, the Israeli government has recalled its envoys from all over the world for a conference on “the global challenges facing Israel”. The conference will take place December 27-31 and will see ambassadors discuss such grave threats as the UN’s Goldstone report regarding the assault on Gaza one year ago.

In recent days, Israeli military forces have also got back to business as usual, shooting dead six Palestinians in two separate incidents in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli authorities have also delivered eviction orders to a dozen Palestinian families near the West Bank city of Jenin. The crime perpetrated by these families is that they had not received planning permission for their dwellings, which are all but impossible for Palestinians to obtain from the Israeli government. The homes will now be demolished.

The people who have spent the last three weeks on the road as part of the Viva Palestina convoy are determined to enter the beleaguered Gaza Strip. They are determined that the aid and vehicles they have spent months fundraising for will reach the people of Gaza.

It falls to people around the world to continue the push for a boycott of and sanctions against the apartheid Israeli state. The Palestinian people must see that the world has not forgotten their plight. Viva Palestina has been a shining light in this cause.

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author by pressTVpublication date Sun Dec 27, 2009 22:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

video and info on other egyptian embassies here

author by themonboyspublication date Mon Dec 28, 2009 15:57author email themonboys at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done to everyone involved.

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author by Ckrispublication date Tue Dec 29, 2009 18:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Looking at this with a long telescope the government of Egypt see in Hamas a fundamentalist organisation which has genuine grass roots support among the ordinary people.
If Hamas were to prosper or even allowed to survive this might encourage the founding of a similar movement in Egypt.
Cue nightmares for President Mubarak et al.
That is my reading for the motivation of the Egyptian government in blocking aid to Gaza.
However it has to be shame on Egypt for playing it's dirty politics with the lives of the already suffering people of Palestine.

author by Moshepublication date Tue Dec 29, 2009 19:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Israel and Palestine must co-exist in peace, freedom and hopefully one day friendship and brotherhood with the pre-1967 borders as their boundaries.

The IDF must withdraw behind the 1967 borders and Palestinian terrorist groups must recognise the existence of the State of Israel, stop their attacks on innocent Israeli civilians and the IDF, disband and disarm.

The expansion of illegal Israeli settlements must end and illegal settlements already in existence must be demolished and Jewish settlers must live inside the 1967 borders.
Jews and Muslims must negotiate how they will share the Temple Mount and solve other religious disagreements.

The current situation cannot continue - either (1) Israel occupying the West Bank and expanding settlements while pushing the Palestinians into smaller and smaller areas or constantly replying to Palestinian attacks with military force or (2) the Palestinian campaign to destroy Israel and expel/kill the entire Jewish population.

For more than 60 years this conflict has dragged on and on.

It must come to an peaceful end.

author by Sean Clintonpublication date Tue Dec 29, 2009 20:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The actions of the Egyptian authorities in preventing the free passage of the humanitarian Viva Palestina convoy and the freedom marchers into Gaza once again exposes the complicity of the Egyptian government with the belligerent Zionist regime.

The Egyptian government has sided with the war criminals and turned its back on the beleaguered people in Gaza whose miserable lives are made all the worse for knowing that their Arab neighbour has sold them out. Egypt is actively preventing the delivery of badly needed aid and the comfort of human solidarity to people who have suffered horrendous injustice, under the cosh of a delinquent military pseudo-state for over 60 years. It does so in order to placate the vile Zionist regime which is able to influence the flow of American aid that has long since bought Egyptian sovereignty with millions of dollars each year.

Egypt has chosen its own path and demonstrated where its priorities and loyalties lie.

Everyone interested in preserving human dignity and human rights must also demonstrate where their priorities lie. People of conscience must stand up and expose Egypt’s role in the siege of Gaza, its denial of the right of free passage for Gazans and its repeated obstruction of aid convoys attempting to gain access to Gaza.

The Egyptian economy is heavily dependant on Western tourists who bring much needed foreign currency into the country and provide employment for millions of people. I for one will not be holidaying in Egypt anytime soon and I will be encouraging all others to boycott Egyptian tourism until such time as it ends its collaboration with the Zionist war criminals and grants Palestinians their inalienable right to free movement the same as it does for Western tourists.

author by TD - Free Palestine Campaignpublication date Wed Dec 30, 2009 14:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Vile as the ongoing attempts by Egypt to close down the Gaza Freedom Marchers and its obscene musical chairs charade with the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy, they pale to small potatoes when compared to the steel wall Egyt is presently building with US Army Corps of Engineers assistance along its 10-kilometer-long border with Gaza: "impossible to cut or melt," the Wall will be 90 to some 100 feet deep into the ground with a superstructure and on the Gaza side there will be a water system for flooding existing tunnels with sea water and drowning any tunnel diggers attempting to bore in the future and which will also poison the earth on the Palestinian side. "The sources added that the pipes that will be planted in the ground will have holes that will regularly irrigate the soil which will cause present tunnels to collapse and make it harder to dig new ones, and will have detrimental influence on the soil on the Palestinian side while the thirty to 35 meter deep steel wall protects the soil on the Egyptian side from such effects".

If this weren't bad enough, Israel's Quisling, Mahmoud Abbas whose term of office terminated on 9th Jan last - but still recognised by the West as the PA President - backs Egypt's "sovereign right" to choke off Gaza's tunnel lifeline of essential medicines, foodstuffs and household goods with this steel wall. The same traitor boasted in a Wall Street Journal interview on 22nd Dec 2009 that: I will not allow a new intifada. As long as I'm in office, I will not allow anybody to start a new intifada. Never never. But if I leave, it's no longer my responsibility and I can't make any guarantees. It could happen. It's not my business to follow up. I promise and I can do. And I already promised and I did during the invasion of Gaza. At that time everybody asked me to go to a third intifada, but I prevented anybody from doing it

To boot, there are ongoing PA attempts to stop tomorrow's demonstrations throughout the West Bank against Mubarak's inhuman collusion with Israel, the US and EU over Gaza and the PA lapdog that doesn't even whimper a protest at this - just slavers belly-up at their feet waiting for further commands such as another attempt to bury the Richard Goldstone report into Israel's war crimes and crimes against humanity.?



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author by C.Colbertpublication date Thu Dec 31, 2009 15:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Egypt has allowed some of the contingent into Gaza:

author by rianorr - napublication date Fri Jan 01, 2010 15:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What is the difference now between the Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza. It shows the Isreali state has
mastered all the techniques of the Third Reich. Confinement, starvation, bombardment, only one step
left - Liquidation.

author by The Fourth World Warpublication date Wed Jan 06, 2010 18:50author email 4worldwar at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Listen to our 4WW exclusive interview with John Hurson live today from the Egypt-Gaza border

The Fourth World War is an internationalist radio program broadcasted every Wednesday at 12pm on Féile FM Béal Feirste and every Thursday at 3.30pm on Near 90.3 FM Baile Átha Cliath.

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author by connollypublication date Fri Jan 22, 2010 01:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its sad to see the egyptians are in collusion with Israels Genocide, the arab world needs to grow a pair and stand up to U.S, shocking!

author by John Wpublication date Sat Jan 23, 2010 14:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

People who demand that Egypt throw open its borders with Gaza should remember that for years Israel has been trying to shovel off responsibility for the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza on to Egypt. And if Egypt did as they demand, Israel would rejoice and close its borders with Gaza permanently. It would have successfully relieved itself of responsibility of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel’s ambition is to hold on to as much of Palestine as possible, with as few Palestinians as possible (preferably none). Getting rid of 1.5 million to Egypt would be a great help in that ambition.

And, if Israel gets trouble from Gaza, eg rockets fired out of it into Israel, it can always repeat Operation Cast Lead and, if the borders with Egypt are open, there will be a second Nakba - Palestinians from Gaza will take refuge in Egypt and Israel won’t let them back.

Israel is waging a campaign at the moment to convince the world that Egypt, not Israel, is responsible for the awful conditions in Gaza. I heard the Israeli Ambassador in London on radio recently saying that Israel was going to maintain the blockade as long as Hamas controlled Gaza, and pointing out that it had a border with Egypt through which it could easily be supplied.

That was also the message of the following letter in the Belfast Telegraph, supporting Viva Palestina against Egypt. The letter is from Colin Nevin of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel.

Egypt should be held to account for clashes

Friday, 8 January 2010

Western activists trying to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza via Egypt this week are finding out that after dozens of members of their 'Viva Palestina' convoy ended up getting injured in clashes with Egyptian police, that Cairo, too, keeps a tight blockade on the border of Gaza.

I haven't yet heard of the Israelis being as heavy-handed as this in their handling of activists who act against official advice.

The biggest difference I can see, apart from the numbers that were attacked or ended up in hospital, is how little headline space the clashes with the Egyptians got in the newspapers.

Now if if Israel had have carried out the same (or even less) treatment of these foreign activists, it would have been front page news. So much for balanced journalism.

If the international community wants to lambast Israel for a so-called 'blockade' of Gaza, even though hundreds of trucks of commodities do get in via Israel largely unreported, then Egypt should equally be held to account for its role in keeping its Gaza border tightly closed.

It seems our do-good activists now have discovered this for themselves.

Both Israel and Egypt control the borders of Gaza. If one judged according to media reports, one would think Gaza has only one border, namely with Israel.

Furthermore, Egypt should have no political reasons for keeping their borders closed. Israel has.



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