Egyptian authorities halt Gaza-bound aid convoy
A convoy of Egyptian activists carrying humanitarian aid for the war-ravaged Gaza Strip has been turned back by authorities near Sinai over security concerns.
Cairo: A convoy of Egyptian activists carrying humanitarian aid for the war-ravaged Gaza Strip has been turned back by authorities near Sinai over security concerns.
Egyptian soldiers prevented the 11-bus caravan at Balouza checkpoint yesterday, 150 km south-west of Rafah border crossing, where the aid was to be delivered to the besieged Palestinian people.
"...We were surprised that we were allowed to enter North Sinai as the army duly opened the gate for the fleet. But when we reached the Rafah border crossing, the last stop before Gaza; authorities refused permission for the vehicles to enter," Ahmed el-Shamy, a freelance journalist and one of the participant in the aid programme said.
The officials told the activists at the Balouza checkpoint that they are not allowed to enter Gaza for their own security.
"We, then, agreed to pledge that everyone is responsible for his security, but the authorities refused this.
"Some of them said they will sit in and protest, but authorities forced us to return again," el-Shamy added.
The convoy comprised a number of prominent Egyptian activists and political figures and left Cairo yesterday.
The relief material contained food supplies and medical equipment.
The authorities also cited lack of official permit for denying the permission, according to Al-Watan newspaper.
The crossing has been opened a few times since the beginning of Israeli offensive in Gaza as an "exceptional" measure to transport wounded Palestinians to North Sinai hospitals and deliver Egyptian as well as Arab aid.
In 2012, a similar Egyptian convoy was able to cross into Gaza during an Israeli assault on the strip, although at that time militant activity in Sinai was vastly reduced, and there were no Israeli ground troops in Gaza.
The Rafah crossing has been closed for most of the time since the military ouster of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, citing security concerns related to the spike in Islamist militancy in the Sinai peninsula.