After months of blocking emergency aid to Gaza, Egypt loosens its grip and allows a humanitarian convoy to cross into the bomb-scarred Palestinian territory.
The European aid-laden convoy called ‘Hope’ which includes 40 wagons of humanitarian aid — food and medicine — ventured across the Rafah border and into Gaza on Sunday.
Rafah is the only escape route from Gaza that does not lead into Israel.
Arafat Madi, chief of the European campaign to defy the Gaza blockade, told reporters that mounting criticism was what prompted Egypt to overturn its refusal and let 20 of the 39 European activists cross into the Gaza Strip.
"Following intensive negotiations between the organizers of the aid convoy and the Egyptians, Egypt denied the entrance of 19 activists and only let 20 of them to cross into the Gaza Strip with the 40 aid-laden wagons and trucks," Madi said.
"It took the activists almost two months to prepare the convoy and the trucks. It contains 40 trucks and 12 ambulances equipped with all needed medical equipment," he added.
The humanitarian convoy, which carried medical supplies worth more than USD 47,000, carried parliamentarians, peace activists and volunteers from Greece, Ireland, Switzerland and Britain.
Headed by Italian parliamentarian Fernando Rossi, ‘Hope’ is the second European aid convoy to cross through Gaza since the end of Israel’s devastating military foray into the coastal strip in late 2008 and early 2009.
The Israeli operations in Gaza killed nearly 1400 Palestinians, wounded thousands of others, displaced 60,800 civilians, seriously damaged 17,000 homes and triggered a critical humanitarian crisis.
The Egyptian government has paralyzed relief efforts for the besieged Palestinians by repeatedly blocking stockpiles of food, fuel and medicine bound for the strip.
Egypt’s complicity with Israel in the imposition of its blockade on the 1.5 million people residing in Gaza has provoked world criticism over the past year.
British member of Common House George Galloway, who led the first European aid convoy into Gaza in March, has called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak an "international criminal" for not permanently opening the Rafah crossing into Gaza.
Egypt and Israel effectively sealed their borders with Gaza in 2007, but UN agencies say the blockade has been tightened in recent months.