One month after its departure from London, the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy finally reached Gaza on Wednesday, having been turned back from the Egyptian border in Jordan, back-tracked through Syria and then been met by riot police on arrival at the Egyptian port of El Arish. The convoy's leader, George Galloway, a British member of parliament, received a hero's welcome upon entering the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Aid convoy reaches Gaza
One month after its departure from London, the Viva Palestina humanitarian aid convoy finally reached Gaza on Wednesday, having been turned back from the Egyptian border in Jordan, back-tracked through Syria and then been met by riot police on arrival at the Egyptian port of El Arish. The convoy's leader, George Galloway, a British member of parliament, received a hero's welcome upon entering the beseiged Palestinian enclave, Al Jazeera reported. "Members of the much-delayed Viva Palestina convoy began passing through Egypt's Rafah border crossing into Gaza on Wednesday, waving Palestinian flags and raising their hands in peace signs. "Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza, said the first wave of vehicles was greeted by Gaza's Hamas leaders as well as members of a Turkish humanitarian organisation that aided in bringing the convoy to the strip. " 'We had been expecting the arrival of the convoy amid much fanfare but it almost caught the Palestinians here by surprise,' he said. " 'The doors suddenly flung open and within minutes the first batch of about 12 or so vehicles made their way from the Egyptian side to the Palestinians.'" Prior to the convoy's arrival, a violent clash between Palestinian protesters and Egyptian security forces resulted in one death and several injuries following a rally that had been called to protest against the convoy's delay. CNN reported: "The Hamas-organised rally began peacefully but degenerated into violence with hundreds of Palestinians throwing rocks across the border wall. "Sounds of gunfire could be heard from video shot at the scene, but the source of the gunfire was unclear. "An official with the Egyptian Ministry of Health told CNN a 21-year-old soldier had been shot twice in the back and died of his wounds. Egyptian State television reported that the gunfire was believed to have come from Palestinians on the Gaza side of the border. "A spokesman for the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza, Salah Bardaweel, told CNN that 35 Palestinians were injured in the clashes. Ten of the injured suffered gunshot wounds and two of the victims were in critical condition, Bardaweel said." "We are troubled by the violence along the Egypt-Gaza border," Martin Nesirky, spokesman for the UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, told reporters at the United Nations on Wednesday. "We call for calm and respect for Egyptian sovereignty." China's Xinhua news agency reported: "On Tuesday, Ban, in a phone call with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, expressed appreciation for the fact that limited amounts of glass were now being allowed into Gaza for the repair of homes, but pressed for further imports of needed material for reconstruction. " 'We remain deeply concerned at unsustainable conditions in Gaza and reiterate the need for the re-opening of all crossings as envisaged by the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access,' Nesirky said." The Ma'an News Agency reported: "Senior Hamas leader in Gaza Salah Bardawil applauded Egypt for their decision to open the crossing for the convoy, and recalled what he described as the 'historic role' Egypt has played supporting the cause of Palestine. He called on the Egyptian leadership to make the mission of Viva Palestina 3 as easy as possible in order to help ease the suffering of the Gazan people. He also called on Egypt to reconsider the erection of an iron wall under the borders between Egypt and Gaza, and to open the Rafah crossing. "Bardawil also expressed regret over the death of an Egyptian soldier during what he called a peaceful demonstration at the Rafah border. He called for self-restraint and cautioned the media to avoid incitement 'that would only deepen the crisis'. "In Jordan, the Islamic Labor Front condemned 'Egyptian assaults against the Viva Palestina 3 convoy,' calling the Egyptian actions 'ugly and disgraceful'. "The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) released a statement following the Rafah border events calling on Egypt and Hamas to investigate the incident so it could be avoided in the future." Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reported: "Israel inched a step closer to deploying a missile defense system along the border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after the Iron Dome successfully intercepted a number of missile barrages in tests held in southern Israel this week. "The tests were overseen by the Defense Ministry, the Israeli Air Force and the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. which has developed and is manufacturing the Iron Dome, slated to become operational and deployed along the Gaza border in the middle of 2010. "The missile barrages that the system succeeded in intercepting included a number of rockets that mimicked Kassam and longer-range Grad-model Katyusha rockets that are known to be in Hamas's arsenal. "The Iron Dome is supposed to be capable of intercepting all of the short-range rockets in fired by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hizbollah in Southern Lebanon, by using an advanced radar that locates and tracks the rocket that is then intercepted by a kinetic missile interceptor." While Israel continues in its efforts to prevent missile attacks from Gaza it may find it more difficult to avoid the legal repercussions of the war on Gaza. The Independent reported: "A group of Israeli army officers have cancelled a visit to Britain because London was unable to guarantee they would not be arrested for alleged war crimes under universal jurisdiction provisions, Israeli officials said yesterday. "Four officers, including a major, a lieutenant colonel and a colonel had been due to visit last week at the invitation of the British Army. "An Israeli official declined to specify the purpose of the visit but said that Israeli officers are invited to Britain 'to assist in defensive technology in the military arena'. "The incident has fuelled Israeli anger at the British Government for not yet following through on promised changes to the law so that Israeli officers and officials do not run the risk of arrest on UK soil. There have been several incidents in which visiting Israelis have been vulnerable to arrest. "The announcement of the cancellation came as the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, was in Israel on a private visit where she met the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon. 'These officials were invited by Great Britain, but they will stay in Israel as long as we do not have a 100 per cent guarantee that they will not become objects of criminal lawsuits in that country,' Mr Ayalon said. 'This matter will shake the good relations between the two countries that share values and far-reaching interests. The British must remember that such visits serve both countries.'"