Gaza aid convoy refused entry by Egypt government
After starting off from places as far afield as Chicago, London, Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur the 200 plus vehicles carrying 450 volunteers from over 20 different countries have remained stranded just a few hundred kilometres from their final goal, the Gaza Strip. After exhuasting diplomatic channels 30 members of the group have started an hunger strike in order to pressure the Egyptian government to allow the aid convoy to enter the country in order to deliver medical supplies and ambulances to Palestinian health organisations.
As a result of a embargo imposed by Isreal, Palestinians in Gaza have been under a state of virtual seige since the end of last year's conflict which cost the lives of 1,200 to 1400 Palestinians and 13 Isrealis (Source BBC).
The convoy, organised by UK based charity Viva Palestina has remained stuck in southern Jordan, unable to leave the port city of Aqaba since arriving on the 26th December. According to the Malaysian based Perdena Global Peace website the Egyptian authorities are refusing to issue entry visas as the have demanded that the convoy should enter Gaza via El Arish on the Mediterranean coast, a route that would involve crossing into Isreali territory.
The first anniversary of the end of hostilities in Gaza has also caused internal unrest in Egypt itself, with several pro-Palestinian protests disrupted by police. The government's decision to allow the construction of a steel barrier with the help of US army engineers which is aimed at preventing Palestinians smuggling supplies in and out via the network of tunnels that criss cross the border area has also been criticised by local bloggers and activists.