Asian aid ship to Gaza fraught with challenges, say activists

11 Jan 2011

Source: alertnet // Nita Bhalla

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A Palestinian flutters during a Hamas rally in Gaza City, Dec. 14, 2010. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

NEW DELHI (AlertNet) – Asian activists who travelled from India to Gaza to deliver $1 million of aid say their journey was fraught with challenges, including being tracked by Israeli warships, having their satellite communications blocked and harassment by the Egyptian authorities.

The Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine – a group of 120 activists which included aid workers, journalists and students from 17 Asian nations – left New Delhi on Dec. 2, 2010 and spent a month travelling across six countries to bring aid to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

The convoy – dubbed “Asia 1” – was carrying medicines, four ambulances, surgical equipment, generators, milk power and other relief items, and is the first Asian aid convoy to Gaza.

“We travelled mostly by road through India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey before boarding a cargo ship in Syria to get to Egypt where we planned to cross the Rafah border into Gaza,” said Aslam Khan, vice president of the All India Students Association.

“But it was not easy and we faced many hurdles at sea,” he told a news conference in New Delhi.

Israel ended 38 years of Gaza occupation in 2005. But it began blockading the Gaza Strip in 2007 after Hamas Islamists hostile to the Jewish state seized power from Palestinians prepared to negotiate peace with Israel.

Imports were tightly restricted until June last year, when Israel faced a world outcry for killing nine Turkish activists in a commando raid to intercept a blockade-busting aid flotilla.

BLOCKED VISAS, WARSHIPS

Khan and other members of the convoy said during their journey from the Syrian Al Ladhiqiyah port to Egypt’s Arish harbour, they were followed and harassed by Israeli ships in the Mediterranean sea.

“There were initially two warships and then two more appeared about three miles (5 km) from our ship and while they maintained a distance, they followed us and repeatedly sending our captain radio messages asking him to explain who we were,” said Khan.

Khan added that the aid ship’s communications systems were jammed by authorities and they could not communicate with the outside world.

Israeli officials however say there was no need for convoys to the Gaza Strip, adding that the area was open to all civilian goods that enter daily via established crossing under the auspices of the United Nations or the Red Cross.

“The intention behind this ‘convoy’ has nothing to do with humanitarian aid, and everything to do with political provocation,” said David Goldfarb, spokesman at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi.

“It was therefore no surprise that the group met with leaders of internationally-recognised terrorist organisations such as the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas. As a consequence, it could only be expected that this group would make every effort to vilify Israel, on its return to India.”

But organisers of the convoy say the challenges of getting the much-needed aid to the Gaza Strip did not stop there.

Egypt refused visas to Iranian members to enter Gaza through its Rafah border and initially refused to allow the aid ship to dock at its Arish harbour for three days.

Egyptian diplomats in New Delhi said they were not aware of details of the incident, but said that there were certain “rules and regulations” that the Arish harbour authorities may have in place, which may not have been adhered to.

After much protest, the group was eventually permitted to unload the aid and take it across the border into Rafah on Jan. 3 where it was handed over the Palestinian authorities, said one of the lead organisers, Firoze Mithiborwala.

“Our objective was not just humanitarian,” he told journalists. “It is to call for a free Palestine and an end to the blockade.”

Asian aid ship to Gaza fraught with challenges, say activists – AlertNet.

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Egypt allows Iranian aid to reach Gaza

PressTV – Thu Jan 6, 2011 11:30PM

Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan activists
Egypt has opened its border with Gaza to humanitarian aid and relief, allowing medical supplies from Iran to be delivered to the besieged enclave through the Rafah border crossing.

The Iranian medical supplies are part of an Asian aid convoy, dubbed Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan, or Asia 1, which is carrying an estimated one million dollars worth of medicine, foodstuffs and toys as well as four buses and 10 power generators for hospitals.

Earlier this week, Egyptian authorities had denied entrance to a number of Iranian activists and refused to allow 10 generators donated by the Islamic Republic to pass through the Rafah border crossing.

The relief supplies have been unloaded from a ship organized by the convoy, which has docked at the Egyptian port of El Arish.

The Asian convoy consists of activists from more than 15 countries, including Iran, India, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Kuwait.

The convoy had travelled 7,000 kilometers, but was stuck in Latikia, in the northwest of Syria, for more than a week awaiting Egypt’s permission.

It started its journey in the Indian capital, New Delhi. It had passed through Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria to reach Egypt and finally the Gaza Strip.

The convoy was scheduled to reach Gaza by December 27, the second anniversary of Israel’s 22-day war on the impoverished enclave that started on December 28, 2008.

Tel Aviv has been enforcing an all-out land, aerial and naval blockade on the 1.5 million Palestinians in the enclave since mid-June 2007.

The illegal Israeli-imposed blockade has created dire humanitarian and economic situation in the enclave as the United Nations expresses concern that over 80 percent of people of Gaza depend on relief supplies for their survival.

On May 31, Israel’s military killed nine Turkish activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, an Ankara-backed humanitarian convoy, which was carrying humanitarian supplies to the Palestinians.

HA/MGH

Related Stories:

PressTV – Egypt allows Iranian aid to reach Gaza.

Egypt blocks ship carrying aid to Gaza

PressTV – Mon Jan 3, 2011 10:19PM

Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan activists (file photo)
Egyptian authorities have prevented an Asian convoy’s ship carrying humanitarian aid and activists from reaching the Gaza Strip.

The ship has not allowed to dock at the Egyptian port of El Arish.

The vessel, which is part of a sizeable pro-Palestinian relief mission, is said to be carrying eight activists as well as $1 million worth of relief supplies for the Israel-blockaded Gaza Strip.

“Egypt still didn’t allow the aid ship to dock. It is 50 hours,” dpa quoted the activists as saying on Monday, noting that they are in a “bad situation.”

The convoy, which in its full size is also known as Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan or Asia 1, is joined by activists of 18 different nationalities.

It has traveled through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Lebanon. It was forced to remain in Syria for a week, awaiting Cairo’s authorization to dock at its northeastern port of El Arish.

The activists say they want to display solidarity with the Palestinian people in their resistance against Israel.

Tel Aviv has been enforcing an all-out land, aerial and naval blockade on the 1.5 million Palestinians in the enclave since mid-June 2007.

Palestinians have frequently accused Cairo of collaborating with Tel Aviv to increase pressure on Gaza by refusing to allow aid convoys to reach the region.

Last January, the Egyptian riot police injured 55 people in the port during clashes with the activists of the high-profile Viva Palestina convoy — a mission, which had been organized by a UK-based charity of the same name.

Following the tension, Cairo accused the members of the mission of committing “criminal” acts in the country and banned all Gaza-headed relief convoys from using its territory.

Meanwhile, a group of Iranian students gathered in front of the representative office of Egypt in Tehran on Monday in order to protest Cairo’s continued policy of preventing humanitarian convoys from reaching the besieged coastal sliver.

They also called on the Egyptian government to cooperate with the Asian aid convoy and provide free passage into Gaza for the aid activists.

HN/GHN/MGH

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PressTV – Egypt blocks ship carrying aid to Gaza.

Israelis spying on new Irish Gaza blockade ship | Irish News | IrishCentral

Blockade runners fear Mossad will sabotage

Israeli Defense Forces

Israeli Defense Forces

Read more: Call for aid on latest Irish Gaza flotilla effort

The location of the Irish ship, that is part of the aid flotilla set for Gaza, is being kept secret due to fears that Israeli intelligence may be spying on the groups effort.

Last year it was believed that Mossad photographed the Irish aid ship, Rachel Corrie, as prepared for its trip to Gaza at Dundalk, County Louth.

The next multinational aid flotilla is due to set sail in March. Those involved met in Rome in December to finalize details to their schedule.

It’s believed that his trip will involved up to 20 ships including the Rachel Corrie and, Turkish ship, Mavi Maramara. Last year nine crew members were attacked and killed on the Mavi Maramara when Israeli soldiers boarded the ship.

The new Irish boat, which is yet to be named, is currently thought to be somewhere in the Mediterranean. It is likely to be relocated soon.

Fintan Lane of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), which is organizing the Irish contingent, told the Sunday Tribune “The Israelis don’t want this flotilla to sail. They want to stop it. I simply don’t trust Israel to act within the law. [The flotilla] could be sabotaged.”

He continued “There is absolutely no doubt that the steering committee is being kept under surveillance by the Israeli security service.”

Those organizing the flotilla believe there will be a larger number of participants this year following the publicity which surrounded last years Israeli operation and the deaths of nine sailors.

Lane said “The likelihood is that it will be double the number that was there last time and probably more…Israel intended [its intervention last year] as an act of intimidation but it backfired.

“We have a lot more people involved this time around. People are more determined than before, partly because they don’t want those who died to have died in vain…People are getting their ships ready. There is a lot to be done,” added Lane.

“The point is to make this an even greater challenge to siege and we want to make it as difficult as possible for Israel to stop the flotilla.”

This years flotilla will involve ships from Europe, the United States, Canada and Malaysia.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said that the government was prepared to express regret for the loss of life but would not apologize for the death of the nine Turkish sailors. They insist they were killed in self-defense.

Israelis spying on new Irish Gaza blockade ship | Irish News | IrishCentral.

Five Israeli naval ships tracking Asian aid ship

Five Israeli naval vessels are tailing the ship carrying humanitarian supplies from Asia to the besieged residents of Gaza.

Speaking via satellite phone, Shaheen Moidunny, who is on board the ship Salam, told The Hindu that Israeli ships had been tracking the movements of their vessel for the last six hours. Radio contact had been established with the Israeli navy. “We are only one hour away from the Egyptian port of Al-Arish, where the ship would be docked,” Mr. Moidunny said. He clarified that there were no plans to take the ship to Gaza. “All the humanitarian supplies would be taken overland from Al-Arish to the Rafa crossing on the Egyptian Gaza border,” he said.

Mr. Moidunny said only eight persons were on board the aid ship, while the rest of the activists, from several Asian countries had been flown into Egypt from Syria.

According to the Egyptian website Ahram Online, the “Asia to Gaza Solidarity Caravan” had remained stuck for nearly a week at the Syrian port of Latakia, before Egyptian authorities granted it permission to enter Al-Arish port. Activists from more than 15 countries, the majority of whom are Indians ,but also include nationals from Iran, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Kuwait are participating in this initiative

The convoy, which set off from New Delhi on December 2, was scheduled to reach Gaza by December 27, a day ahead of the second anniversary of Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza.

Earlier, Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper quoted Palestinian sources as saying that the Egyptian embassy in Damascus had issued visas to 120 activists, but had denied entry to another 46 hailing from Jordan and Iran. Some of the aid material, including 10 generators donated by Iran, were not allowed on the ship, and the size of the cargo was kept below 300 tonnes.

The Hindu : News / International : Five Israeli naval ships tracking Asian aid ship.

Israeli Commandos Intercept Gaza-Bound Ship on Route to Egyptian Port

News number: 8910121528

18:35 | 2011-01-02

World

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Israeli Commandos Intercept Gaza-Bound Ship on Route to Egyptian Port

TEHRAN (FNA)- Israeli commandos intercepted a Gaza-bound aid ship en route to the Egyptian port of Al-Arish in international waters and interrogated the crew and the peace activists aboard the vessel.

Reports from the passengers aboard the ship said that the vessel carrying an Asian Aid Cargo for the besieged people in Gaza was chased by the Israeli frigates and aircraft since early morning hours and was later forced to a halt by several units of Israeli commandos in international waters.

Unofficial sources said that the Israeli commandos have made several arrests, although they have not faced any resistance by those onboard the vessel and although the ship was moving from Syria to Egypt.

The ship, carrying only eight members of the Gaza-bound Asian convoy, left Syria’s Lattakia Port for al-Arish Port in Egypt on Saturday.

The eight members include peace activists from Azerbaijan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan.

Egypt has already granted permission to a number of activists to cross its border with Gaza. Cairo’s approval is required to reach the Gaza Strip through the shared Rafah crossing, particularly since Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip was tightened in 2007.

The convoy, which currently has activists from 18 different nationalities onboard, began its journey from the Indian capital, New Delhi and traveled through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Lebanon.

The move came nearly seven months after Israeli forces raided the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31. Over 100 Israeli soldiers supported by military choppers boarded a Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, leading the six-ship convoy in international waters.

The Israeli commandoes killed 20 international human rights activists and wounded 80 more. Nine of the victims were Turkish nationals. Some members of the European parliaments, former western diplomats, reporters and human rights activists were among the victims of Israel’s brutal act.

The siege of Gaza started in June 2007 when Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip. This was supported by the governments of Egypt and the US.

The blockade consists of a land blockade along Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel and a sea blockade. It immediately followed the 2006-2007 economic sanctions against the Palestinian National Authority following the election of Hamas to the Palestinian government.

The blockade has attracted criticism from many Human Rights organizations. September 2009 UN fact-finding mission found that the blockade of Gaza “amounted to collective punishment” was likely a war crime and a crime against humanity and recommended that the matter be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Fars News Agency :: Israeli Commandos Intercept Gaza-Bound Ship on Route to Egyptian Port.

Israeli warheads following Asian aid ship to Gaza | TwoCircles.net

By TCN Staff Reporter

New Delhi: In a disturbing news coming from Middle East, two Israeli war heads are following the Asian aid ship to Gaza. Talking to TwoCircles.net from Syria, Gauhar Iqbal, one of the members of the aid convoy, said, “one Israeli warship and one Israeli helicopter are following and keeping a close vigil over the movements of the Asian aid ship which is on its way to Gaza.” Further information is awaited regarding the action and response of Israel to the aid ship.

Asia’s first humanitarian aid convoy is on its way to Palestine with medical and other aids seeking to break the siege on Gaza. The Asian convoy left New Delhi on December 2, 2010 and passed through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Syria. The 130-member convoy includes people of all faiths and religions, men and women, from India, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Bahrain and Azerbaijan.

The Indian Lifeline to Gaza, as the Indian team is called, consists of 50 people from different states, representing various student organizations, civil society groups and trade unions etc like the Awami Bharat (Feroze Mithiborwala), Solidarity Youth Movement, Student Islamic Organisation (Shaheen K Moidunni) and the New Trade Union Initiative (Ashim Roy).

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla carrying aids to besieged Gaza strip was raided by Israeli soldiers killing around 20 onboard in May last year. And formerly, an attempt of renowned human rights and civil activists like Yvonne Ridley to enter Gaza and demand an end to the siege was dealt with strictly by the Egyptian government at the Rafah Border.

Israeli warheads following Asian aid ship to Gaza | TwoCircles.net.

Asian-backed ship set to sail with Gaza aid – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 07:17:00 12/28/2010

Filed Under: Politics, Foreign Aid, Diplomacy, Foreign affairs & international relations

DAMASCUS — An aid ship backed by Asian activists will soon set sail for the blockaded Gaza Strip from Syria, a spokesman for Palestinian groups based in Syria said on Monday.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Asia 1 is awaiting the green light from Egypt to sail to the Egyptian port of El-Arish from where its cargo is to be carried over land to Gaza, Khaled Abdel-Majid told AFP.

Several Asian charity organisations, mainly from India, were behind the initiative, and the boat would also carry a dozen activists from Asian countries, Abdel-Majid added.

More than 100 other activists would fly to Egypt in order to link up with the aid convoy, he said, adding the activists were from countries including Iran, Japan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The boat would carry one million dollars (760,000 euros) worth of medicine, foodstuffs and toys as well as four buses and 10 power generators for hospitals, the Palestinian official said.

Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since Palestinian groups captured one of its soldiers in June 2006.

It reinforced it a year later after the Islamists Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave following deadly fighting with Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Israel eased the blockade after its May 31 raid on a flotilla of aid ships seeking that killed nine Turkish activists and drew international condemnation.

via Asian-backed ship set to sail with Gaza aid – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos.