|Organisers say the Viva Palestina 5 is the biggest aid convoy ever bound for the Gaza Strip [File: GALLO/GETTY]|
A new convoy of vehicles has set off from the UK carrying humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, more than three months after nine people were killed in another attempt to break an Israeli blockade on the Strip.
The Viva Palestina 5 convoy, which departed from London on Saturday, will be joined by participants from a number of countries before it eventually attempts to cross the Rafah border from Egypt into the besieged Palestinian territory.
Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from London, said organisers of the trip say the attempt is the biggest and most international aid convoy ever bound for Gaza.
“By the time the convoy reaches the Strip it will have grown from 15 vehicles to 150 – picking up support across Europe and the Arab world,” she said.
“Most of the journey will be over land, but the aid will be transferred to ships for transportation between Syria and Egypt.
“The aid workers hope to deliver their supplies through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza early next month.”
Deadly raid remembered
Members of the convoy have planned to hold a remembrance ceremony as they pass the spot where Israeli troops conducted a deadly raid on another aid flotilla destined for Gaza on May 31.
Nine pro-Palestinian activists – eight Turks and a dual US-Turkish citizen – were killed when Israeli troops boarded the Mavi Marmara ship.
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.
Organisers of the Viva Palestina convoy said the actions of the Israeli army against the flotilla brought a change in international opinion against the seige on Gaza.
“Far from deterring people from seeking to bring that siege to an end, the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla is spurring on even more people to bring humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and to end the blockade,” the group said in a statement on its website.
“As a result Viva Palestina is launching ‘Viva Palestina 5 – a global lifeline to Gaza’ … in conjunction with convoys leaving from Casablanca and Doha and timed to coordinate with a larger and even more international flotilla aiming to reach Gaza by sea at the same time as the land convoys reach by land.”
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.