Gaza aid convoy changes its route following deal with Egypt

December 30, 2009, Wednesday/ 17:46:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES
An international humanitarian aid convoy bound for the Gaza Strip backtracked toward Syria yesterday after reaching a deal with Egyptian authorities concerning its transit course on Monday.

The British-based Viva Palestina convoy was stopped in Jordan’s Red Sea port of Aqaba after Egyptian authorities refused to allow it to enter Gaza through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba. Egypt has insisted that the convoy return to Syria and then enter Egypt through the port of El Arish on the Mediterranean coast.

Alice Howard, a spokeswoman for Viva Palestina, said the 150-vehicle convoy carrying hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies was headed to the Syrian port of Latakia. From there, it will sail to El Arish, and then to Gaza.

More than 400 convoy participants had staged a hunger strike on Sunday. Egypt insisted the convoy use the Mediterranean route closer to the Gaza border.

The convoy hopes to join Palestinians in a nonviolent march to the Israeli border on Thursday. Tens of thousands of Palestinians will march on Thursday to commemorate Israel’s Cast Lead operation last December and January and protest the blockade of Gaza, which has been under way since the offensive. About 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the operation, according to Amnesty International figures. The convoy, which departed from Britain, transited several European countries before reaching Turkey, Syria and Jordan. PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier said the convoy should be allowed to reach Gaza.

Turkish officials had talks with Egyptian authorities to resolve the dispute over the transit route. On Monday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the issue was about deciding on which route the convoy should use, not whether or not it should be allowed to enter Gaza.

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