Injuries and arrests in clashes between aid convoy and Egyptian Police
At least 55 people have been injured and one person killed in clashes between Egyptian police and pro-Palestinian activists from the ‘Viva Palestina’ Humanitarian Aid Convoy who were trying to deliver aid into the Gaza Strip. Medical workers and protesters report that approximately 520 activists broke down the gate at the al-Arish port late on Tuesday in protest against an Egyptian decision to ship some of the goods through Israel.
(Picture: Egyptian forces clashed with members of the Viva Palestina convoy on Tuesday night)
‘Viva Palestina’ reports that more than 10 members of the Viva Palestina convoy were injured, four of them seriously, and seven members arrested by Egyptian police during the disturbances at 11.40 pm local time. There have been unconfirmed reports that one Egyptian border guard has been shot dead.
It is believed that all Irish members of the convoy are unharmed. However, Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on Minister Dermot Ahern to make contact with the Egyptian Government in order to ensure the safety of the Irish citizens involved.
The Viva Palestina convoy consists of over 500 people from 20 countries, in 250 vehicles loaded with Humanitarian Aid. The convoy is organised by the charity “Viva Palestina”, which was founded by British MP George Galloway. 10 Irish volunteers in 2 ambulances, a van, and a truck loaded with Humanitarian Aid are part of the convoy.
The convoy set out from the UK nearly one month ago and has already encountered difficulties. There has already been a bitter dispute between its organisers and the Egyptian government, which banned the convoy from entering Egypt's Sinai from Jordan by ferry, forcing it to drive north to the Syrian port of Lattakia.
Since Hamas came to power in June 2007, Israel and Egypt have severely restricted travel to and from the Gaza Strip. The blockade currently allows only very basic supplies into Gaza.
Hamas has accused Egypt of reinforcing the siege imposed by Israel.
‘Viva Palestina’ reports that Egyptian representative has walked out of negotiations and that aid workers have blocked the entrance to the port and are faced with riot police and water cannons. The organisation is calling on people around the world to gather in protest at Egyptian embassies.
Update 5.10pm: The Gaza aid convoy is at the Rafah crossing in Egypt and will cross into Gaza this evening. Among those currently waiting in traffic at the crossing are three Irish vehicles and several Irish participants including Tyrone man John Hurson, Corkwoman Kate O'Sullivan and Corkman Dave Carroll (who received several stitches to his head following an attack on the convoy by Egyptian police last night).
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin on the situation:
“I was concerned to hear that a number of Irish citizens had been caught up in disturbances which took place last night. I have been speaking with the family of one of the Irish volunteers in question to assure them that we were doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the volunteers in El Arish.”
“I have also spoken today with Ireland’s Ambassador to Egypt, Mr. Gerard Corr, and asked that he keep me personally informed of developments. The Irish Embassy in Cairo has been in contact with the volunteers on the ground and with the Egyptian authorities, and officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin have also been in touch with the Egyptian Embassy here.”
“In light of last night’s disturbances, the Embassy in Cairo has contacted the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and expressed concern at reports that Irish citizens had been caught up in the violence. We have also expressed our concern to the Egyptian authorities for the welfare of the Irish citizens involved in the aid convoy.”
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and maintain close contact with the volunteers and the Egyptian Government.”