Asian aid ship reaches Gaza crossing

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

CAIRO - A ship carrying aid from Asia for the Gaza Strip was allowed to dock in Egypt’s el-Arish port Tuesday, after nearly three days of waiting for permission, organisers of the relief effort said.

“Asia2Gaza paid $10,000 to Egypt and finally was allowed to dock the aid ship in el-Arish,” said the group on its Twitter page Tuesday morning.

An Egyptian security source said the hold-up was due to the refusal of the group to pay a berthing fee of some $30,000 to port officials.

The aid group had said it could not drum up the sum.

Around 112 activists who were accompany the vessel entered Gaza via Egypt’s Rafah border crossing after flying in from Damascus in the early hours Monday.

But Egypt refused entry to seven Iranians members of parliament and 13 other activists and journalists from different nationalities who were part of the convoy.

The group entered without the aid, which was still on the ship.

The ship is carrying 1,000 tons of food and medical supplies, four ambulances and eight school buses for people living in the Palestinian territory, which is subject to an Israeli blockade and siege.

It was not immediately clear what other items the group would be allowed to take into Gaza, as Israel has guidelines to differentiate between humanitarian necessities and what it deems as non-essential luxuries.

The vessel began its journey in India as part of the Asia2Gaza Caravan campaign, passing through Iran, Turkey and Syria.

The aid shipment has travelled over 7,000 kilometres to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip’s 1.5 million inhabitants, 80 percent of whom still depend on humanitarian aid as their conditions continue to stagnate, according to a recent statement by the UN relief agency in the Middle East.

Egypt’s approval is required to reach the Gaza Strip through Rafah, particularly since Israel tightened its blockade after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

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