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Middle East
Gaza aid convoy to change course
Viva Palestina to re-route via Syria to enter Gaza through the Mediterranean.
Last Modified: 29 Dec 2009 20:17 GMT
Egypt accused the French protesters of lying and trying to embarrass it [AFP]

Organisers of the Viva Palestina aid convoy, which is trying to reach the Gaza Strip, have agreed to travel via Syria en route to Egypt. 

 

The agreement came after a Turkish mediator reached a deal with the Egyptian consul in Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba.

 

The convoy will now head to the Syrian port of Latakia to sail from there to the Egyptian port of El Arish, and then to Gaza.

The Viva Palestina convoy, which has been stranded in Aqaba for the past five days, is led by George Galloway, a British MP.

A statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Information said that Galloway had been told by November 10 that the convoy had to travel through El Arish.

'Disregarding directives'

"Egypt was surprised with Galloway's insistence to disregard the Egyptian directives," the statement said.

In depth

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"In light of Egypt's feeling that the convoy organisers are seeking to impose a fait accompli and disregard the Egyptian directives, Egypt announced that it will not allow the convoy access, except through Arish port."

Turkey dispatched an official on Saturday to try convince the Egyptians to allow the convoy to go through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, the most direct route to Gaza after Egypt insisted that the convoy can only enter through El-Arish, on its Mediterranean coast.

Viva Palestina and another convoy, the Gaza Freedom March, were planning to arrive on Sunday to commemorate the first anniversary of Israel's war on Gaza that killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. 

Meanwhile, at least 300 French participants of the Gaza Freedom March spent the night camped out in front of their embassy in Cairo, bringing a major road in the Egyptian capital to a halt as riot police  wielding plexiglass shields surrounded them.

Egypt angry 

Hossam Zaki, an Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman, accused the French protesters of lying and trying to embarrass Egypt.

"They claimed they had aid to carry to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is a lie," the MENA news agency quoted Zaki as saying.

"They want media exposure and to pressure and embarrass Egypt," he said.

On Sunday, police briefly detained 38 international participants in the Sinai town of El-Arish, organisers said.

"At noon (10:00 GMT) on December 27, Egyptian security forces detained a group of 30 activists in their hotel in El-Arish as they prepared to leave for Gaza, placing them under house arrest," they said.

"Another group of eight people, including American, British, Spanish, Japanese and Greek citizens, were detained at the bus station of El-Arish in the afternoon of December 27."

On Sunday, Egyptian police also stopped some 200 protesters from renting boats on the Nile to hold a procession to commemorate those who died in the Gaza war.

On December 31, participants are hoping to join Palestinians "in a non-violent march from northern Gaza to the Erez-Israeli border," the organisers said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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