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Middle East
Gaza aid convoy 'attacked' in Egypt
Convoy led by British MP pelted with stones near border crossing.
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2009 00:03 GMT
Galloway, left, has called Mubarak an "international criminal" for not opening the Rafah crossing [EPA]

A British convoy with medical relief for the Palestinian Gaza Strip has been pelted with stones and vandalised in the Egyptian town of El-Arish, 45km south of the Rafah border crossing.

Several people in the convoy were injured in the incident on Sunday according to Yvonne Ridley, one of the convoy organisers.

"It's an absolute disgrace... The power was cut. During cover of darkness members of our convoy were attacked with stones.

"Vandals also wrote dirty words and anti-Hamas slogans," she said.

A security official said that during a power cut, which is a frequent occurrence in the town, children pelted the convoy with stones.

The Viva Palestina convoy, led by George Galloway, a British member of parliament, has caused controversy in Egypt.

Criticised Mubarak

Galloway has previously called Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president, an "international criminal" for not permanently opening the Rafah crossing into Gaza.

But he said he would meet representatives of Mubarak's National Democratic party as he arrived in Cairo on Saturday.

Several opposition groups, which had been campaigning for the opening of the Egypt-Gaza crossing, cancelled a planned reception for the convoy when it crossed from Libya on Thursday.

And a prominent Egyptian opposition blogger criticised the convoy.

"I and the rest of the Palestine solidarity activists sincerely wish Galloway a nice time and reception by the same persons who imprison, torture and abuse Arab solidarity activists," Hossam el-Hamalawy wrote in his blog.

The Egyptian government arrested dozens of opposition members who demonstrated against Israel's war on Gaza in December and January, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

Galloway's 110 vehicle convoy has been travelling through Europe and North Africa, carrying aid supplies valued at $1.4m.

Heading to Rafah

It is expected to head to Rafah on Monday after a dispute arose between organisers and Egyptian officials over the inclusion of non-medical aid in the convoy.

Egyptian officials have said they would allow medical relief through the Rafah passage but non-medical goods such as food would have to pass through Israel's crossings with the Palestinian enclave.

"George Galloway is still in negotiations," Ridley said.

"What we have agreed to do is to separate the medical aid from the non-medical aid. The non-medical will go into Gaza via the Egyptian Red Crescent."

Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing during brief periods of the war to let aid into the strip and to let wounded Palestinians leave, but it has since been closed.

Ten Libyan trucks carrying medicine were allowed into Gaza on Sunday, a border official said.

Source:
Agencies
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