CAIRO: The humanitarian aid convoy, Road to Hope, has been held at the Libyan-Egyptian border for the past four days as it awaits permission from Egyptian authorities to enter Gaza via Egypt.
The convoy left London on Oct. 10 and is comprised of 30 vehicles and 101 humanitarian aid workers, including eight survivors of the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla — seven of whom were aboard the Mavi Marmara itself.
“The convoy has traveled [4,500] miles and is currently located at the Libyan-Egyptian border,” stated a press release by the convoy’s spokesman, Ken O’Keefe, a former US marine who was on-board the Mavi Marmara during the Israeli raid and was involved in disarming two of the Israeli commandos.
“As it stands the convoy finds itself at a standstill, with direct communication with the outside world being limited, and access to the internet very difficult [to establish].”
The convoy has received a warm reception from all of the North African governments they have passed — especially from the Libyan government which supported them through various diplomatic challenges.
“Now we find ourselves in our third day at the Libyan-Egyptian border and we remain hopeful that the land route will be opened to us in the coming days,” said O’Keefe, also noting that the convoy first departed from London with the understanding that Egypt would not close off its land to the Road to Hope.
“One reason for our optimism that we will travel the land route is the fact that the Al Quds convoy, a Libyan convoy also delivering aid to Gaza, is set to travel the land route in the coming days,” said Kieran Turner, the convoy leader. “For several weeks we have hoped to join our convoys and travel together,”
Turner understands that there is a possibility the Egyptian government will deny the Road to Hope access to Egypt’s land route, in which case they will only be left with two acceptable options, said Turner. The first is “to press on via the land border without permission, at which time our only chance of success will be by way of significant international pressure and a reversal of a policy which [implicitly] supports the illegal siege of Gaza,” Turner explained.
The second option — if they are denied entry though the land route — is taking the convoy to sea.
“This option inherently requires significant increases in the cost of our mission, and importantly, to all subsequent aid missions. The end result of this policy is a reduction in the already limited resources that can be brought to [help] the people of Palestine,” Turner stated.
The convoy’s leadership urged the Egyptian authorities to allow the Road to Hope safe land passage into Gaza in the coming days, to allow the convoy to travel alongside the Libyan Al Quds convoy, and to ultimately increase the ‘easing’ of a blockade that continues to collectively punish the people of Gaza.
On the other hand, spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hossam Zaki, has stated that it is welcoming the Road to Hope aid convoy at Al-Arish Port in Sinai. Zaki added that the Egyptian government will allow the convoys traveling to Gaza to do so by either boat or by airplane, but not through Egyptian land.
Despite this announced limitation, Zaki stated that the Egyptian authorities will give their full support so that humanitarian aid may reach the people of Gaza.
On Road to Hope’s official Facebook page, one convoy member wrote, “[The Road to Hope] is currently held between the borders of Libya and Egypt against [the convoy’s] will. Mohamed El-Haddad has ordered the police not to let us out of the compound, we have no [access to telecommunication devices or] the internet … they won’t [even] allow [the convoy] to go to town, which is only one kilometer away … we can’t even get out.”
“It is through actions like these, and the delay we faced on Viva Palestina, that lend to the notion that Egypt is aiding the Israel occupation to enforce [its] illegal siege on Gaza and its people,” said Asif Bhayat, a member of the Viva Palestina Lifeline 5 convoy which arrived in Gaza earlier this month.