Gaza City: A large aid convoy arrived in the Gaza Strip on Thursday after a mainly overland trip through Europe but without its chief organiser, a firebrand former British MP declared persona non grata by Egypt.
The convoy reached Egypt by ferry from the Syrian port of Lattakia and entered the Hamas-run Palestinian territory through the Rafah border crossing.
The official Egyptian MENA news agency said the "Lifeline 5" convoy of 137 trucks filled with humanitarian aid supplies was accompanied by around 340 human rights activists of various nationalities.
Its arrival was marked by the absence of George Galloway, an outspoken Scot and controversial left winger who was banned from Egypt after convoy activists clashed with police in January in El-Arish, 45 kms from Gaza.
Convoy spokesman Zaher Berawi yesterday deplored Cairo`s insistence on "excluding convoy official George Galloway”, and said he hoped the issue of the former parliamentarian`s banning can be resolved in the future.
Hamas officials and hundreds of people welcomed the convoy to Gaza, waving Palestinian flags and also those of countries participating in the convoy.
The convoy left London on September 12, passing through France, Italy, Greece and Turkey before arriving in Syria in early October.
While in Turkey, the participants paid tribute to nine Turkish activists who were killed in a deadly May 31 Israeli raid on aid ships trying to run the Gaza blockade.
Israel had closed its border with Gaza to all but limited supplies since Hamas seized control there in 2007, but in the wake of the raid it partly lifted the blockade and allowed in all purely civilian goods.
The convoy was organised by the Britain-based group Viva Palestina which campaigns for lifting the Gaza blockade.