The Egyptian go-ahead came after a tense stand-off and following mediation by several countries [AFP]

The Viva Palestina aid convoy that is bound for the Gaza Strip has been given the green light by the Egyptian government to sail to the port of Al-Arish.

On Wednesday, the 400-member convoy was also promised a free passage across the border into Gaza after it arrives in the Sinai port.

The Egyptian go-ahead came after a tense eight day stand-off and followed mediation by several countries including Syria to persuade the Egyptians to agree to the passage.

Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, who is travelling with the group, said that the convoy will now board a cargo ship in the Syrian port of Letakia and sail to Al-Arish.

'Conditions'

"The organisers are obviously delighted about the go-ahead; however, there are some reservations because the Egyptians might still have some conditions for the passage.

"The Egyptians might not allow George Galloway, the leader of the convoy, to set foot on Egyptian soil," our correspondent said from Syria.

Organisers of the trip say the attempt is "the biggest and most international aid convoy ever bound for Gaza, with 148 vehicles carrying more than five million dollars worth of medication, school equipment and aid."

The group comprises of activists from more than 30 countries including New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritania, the US, Morocco and South Africa.

Several politicians and elected officials have joined the convoy as well as almost 30 survivors from the Israeli attack on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara.

Nine pro-Palestinian activists - eight Turks and a dual US-Turkish citizen - were killed when Israeli troops boarded the Mavi Marmara.

Israel has insisted its commandos resorted to force after they were attacked on the deck of the boat, but activists on board say the soldiers opened fire as soon as they landed.

Gaza closed off

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after the Palestinian group Hamas movement took control of the territory.

Gaza has been closed to virtually all supplies, and Palestinians inside the territory have had to deal with food shortages, lengthy power cuts and no cooking gas.

Israel has since eased its land border restrictions with the territory to allow through more civilian goods.

But construction materials remain heavily restricted, Gazans have very limited freedom of movement, and Israel still enforces a naval blockade on the territory.

Source: Al Jazeera