Wed, Oct 27, 2010 | The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
The Viva Palestina Convoy Enters the Gaza Strip
On October 21 the Viva Palestina convoy entered the Gaza Strip. The de facto Hamas administration gave extensive media coverage to the convoy’s stay in the Gaza Strip in order to boost its image in Arab and Western public opinion and to defame Israel. Hamas activists headed by Ismail Haniya met with convoy activists and said that “Palestine” had to be “Palestinian” and that Israel “is a cancerous growth on the living body of the Arab nation.”
During the afternoon of Thursday, October 21, the Viva Palestina convoy entered the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing. It comprised 150 vehicles and 350 participants, most of whom arrived in El-Arish by air. The convoy brought equipment worth about $5 million. Convoy activists spent three days in the Gaza Strip, during which receptions were held for them at various ceremonies and events organized and conducted by the de facto Hamas administration.
The de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip turned the convoy’s entrance into a media campaign to improve its image in Western and Arab public opinion and defame Israel, and to exert pressure on Israel for a unilateral lifting of the so-called “siege.” Convoy activists, especially those from the Arab-Muslim world, were included in ceremonies and events which were clearly Hamas-Islamist in character (On the other hand, the European members of the convoy, who were in the minority after the Middle East contingents arrived, made sure to keep a low media profile.)
The convoy activists met with senior Hamas figures, headed by Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration. During a sermon he called Israel (“the occupation”) “a cancerous growth on the living body of the Arab nation” and said that Palestine was and would remain Palestinian, Arab and Muslim. To soften the murderous image of the Hamas administration, Fathi Hamad, interior minister, said that Hamas had released dozens of criminals as a gesture to the convoy and in accordance with the request of its moving spirit, George Galloway. The prisoners were released in a festive ceremony on October 23 (Safa News Agency, October 23, 2010).
Members of the Turkish delegation, who did not reveal their organizational affiliations, were taken for a tour by commanders of the military-terrorist wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The PIJ’s website posted pictures of the Turks, who joined PIJ operatives and were photographed with them holding weapons, wearing uniforms and decorated with PIJ headbands. The pictures were posted on the website of the Jerusalem Battalions, the PIJ’s military-terrorist wing, and removed after a short period of time.
Around noon on October 24 the members of the convoy left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing and held a press conference organized by convoy leader Kevin Ovenden. He reported that Viva Palestina was planning another convoy, this one to be called Lifeline 6, which would arrive in the Gaza Strip in the near future (Safa News Agency, October 24, 2010).
Paul Larudee, senior activist of the pro-Hamas movements Free Palestine (FPM) Free Gaza (FGM) and International Solidarity (ISM), told the Iranian PressTV that plans were being made to send a plane to the Gaza Strip and to raise international awareness of the so-called “right of return” of the Palestinians. He said the following:
–The FPM wanted to buy, for half a million dollars, a plane constructed in Poland and able to take off and land on a short runway in difficult terrain. The organization intended to land it in the Gaza Strip on one of the roads leading to the Israeli settlements, or some other place in the Gaza Strip (PressTV, October 19, 2010).
–The FPM intended to fly as many Palestinian volunteers as possible to the airport [by implication, Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel] where “they will insist on their rights as Palestinian refugees” and ask to “return to their homes.” He claimed that there were already 100 volunteers and that “no one will forget this plane,” because it would be extensively covered by the media (PressTV, October 19, 2010).
–Freedom Fleet 2: Several of the organizers of the upgraded flotilla of the anti-Israel coalition called Freedom Fleet 2 announced that they expected the flotilla to set sail between March and May 2011. They said it would be composed of between 12 and 20 ships with volunteers from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Holland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and one ship of volunteers from the United States, which would sail under the American flag. According to the organizers, the flotilla is expected to sail from a number of ports at the same time and contacts to that end are being held with Spain, Greece, Italy, various Arab countries, Turkey and Cyprus. Concerning the provision of the ships, the organizers have said that “more than 12 European countries and between eight and ten Arab countries are working on it” (Al-Quds, October 21; Agence France-Presse, October 19; the Voice of Palestine radio, October 20, 2010).
 For further information see the September 6, 2010 bulletin at Terrorism-info.org.il.