Wed, Oct 13, 2010 | The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
Viva Palestina Aid Convoy Still Waits In Syria For Authorization To Enter Egypt
The Viva Palestina convoy:
–The Viva Palestina aid convoy is still in the Syrian port of Latakia. It has apparently not yet received authorization from Egypt to enter its territory. It is also not clear whether it will be able to rent a ship to take it to the port of El Arish. Zaher Birawi, British-based Hamas activist and convoy spokesman, said that as far as the convoy was concerned, “it will leave on October 15 or 16 at the latest” (Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, October 10, 2010; Al-Dustour, October 9, 2010).
–In the meantime, convoy head former British MP George Galloway, returned to Britain on October 6 “because of political commitments,” apparently in the wake of the Egyptian authorities’ decision to prevent him from entering its territory (He was declared persona non grata after the affair of the December 2009 convoy). Zaher Birawi warned that the Egyptian decision might have “negative consequences,” and that there was no way of promising that “rage will not build up which will lead to behavior of the convoy participants which might get out of control” (Al-Watan, October 9, 2010; Al-Sabil, October 8, 2010).
–On October 4 senior members of the convoy met with Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, who held a gala dinner for them. He said that “the convoy participants are fighting a winning battle” which supported “the firm stance of the Gazans and all Palestine” (Safa News Agency, October 6, 2010; Hamas’ Palestine-info website, October 6, 2010; Filastin al-‘Aan, October 6, 2010).
Freedom Fleet 2: The organizers of the upgraded flotilla claimed that it would consist of between 9 and 15 ships from European countries, Canada, Malaysia, India and Turkey. According to Free Gaza Movement member Greta Berlin, “organizing such a sea voyage will take time,” and by implication, it will not set sail before the end of the year (Qudsnet website, October 4, 2010).
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry earlier stated “that Egypt’s authorities reserve their right not to allow such persons [George Galloway] into its land” in an official press release on October 6.
The official Spokesman for the Foreign Ministry stated that contacts were held for the first time between the organizers of the Lifeline 5 maritime convoy and Egyptian Senior officials on October 5.
The Spokesman indicated that the meeting that was attended by the Egyptian Ambassador in Damascus and some representatives from the convoy organizing bodies which is expected to set off from Latakia within a few days addressed some organizing matters which would facilitate the convoy access to El-Arish Port and later to Gaza Strip.
The Spokesman stated that Egypt’s constant position is to welcome cooperation with any bodies and organizations wanting to access humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people in Gaza through El Arish port according to the Egyptian authorities regulations. He added that the convoy organizers were informed of that tentative position.
The spokesman stated that the Syrian authorities, the country of departure, are being informed of the Egyptian attitude towards the convoy indicating that the Egyptian side is looking forward to all parties’ collaboration delivering the humanitarian assistance to the deserving persons inside the Strip together with Arab and foreign partners.
In this context, the spokesman affirmed that Egypt’s authorities reserve their right not to allow such persons into its land. [Egypt Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Oct 06, 2010]