Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

UK aid convoy crosses into Gaza

George Galloway at Rafah crossing
George Galloway (making a victory sign) and other activists at Rafah

Part of a 99-vehicle convoy bringing medicine, food, clothing and toys from the UK has reached Gaza after a 24-day journey through Europe and Africa.

Organised by the Viva Palestina group and backed by UK MP George Galloway, the convoy entered Gaza from Egypt.

It was held for a day because the Egyptian authorities objected to its carrying some non-medical goods.

Gaza is under a tight blockade by the Israeli military, which Egypt helps to enforce at the Rafah border crossing.

The Viva Palestina website said it took more than 90 minutes for all the vehicles to leave the two car parks in the Egyptian town of El-Arish where they stayed the night.

It said some non-medical aid had been unloaded in the line with negotiations with the Egyptians and would be delivered by the Egyptian Red Crescent.

The Egyptian RC is expected to deliver the non-medical aid via one of Israel's crossing points where it can be checked by the Israeli military.

Mr Galloway, a fierce critic of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, said that more would follow and that Gazans should not feel they were alone. Mr Galloway kissed the ground after crossing into Gaza.

"I have entered Palestine many times but the most emotional of these is after the 22-day genocidal aggression against the Palestinian people," he told reporters, referring to the Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January which Israeli said was launched in response to rocket fire from Gaza.

About 1,300 people were killed in the offensive and thousands wounded.

United Nations emergency officials say Gaza is suffering from shortages of clean water, fresh food, medical supplies and and fuel.

On Sunday, there were reports that some Viva Palestina vehicles - which include a fire engine, ambulances and a boat on a trailer - had been pelted with stones and defaced in El-Arish which lies about 40km away from Rafah.

Vehicles had been daubed by anti-Hamas slogans, said British broadcaster Yvonne Ridley, who is one of the organisers.

Egyptian border officials said 10 Libyan trucks carrying medicine were allowed to transfer their aid to Gaza on Sunday.

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