Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

UK MP given Palestinian passport

UK member of parliament George Galloway and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh appeared in public for the first time since the Gaza war

UK Member of Parliament George Galloway has received a Palestinian passport from a Hamas leader in Gaza.

The passport was given in "deep appreciation" for his support for the Palestinians and their cause.

Mr Galloway was part of a convoy which delivered financial and material assistance to Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Wednesday.

The aid convoy was organised by the Viva Palestina group and supported by Mr Galloway.

He personally donated 25,000 and a fleet of vehicles. The group visited sites which had been hit during the three-week offensive.

If anyone is calculating that by starving and sieging and bombing the Palestinian people that they will one day surrender, I'm sure that they are wrong
George Galloway

The presentation of the passport to Mr Galloway was the first time Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader in Gaza and former Palestinian prime minister, had appeared in front of the cameras since the end of the recent Israeli assault on Gaza which ended on 18 January.

Mr Galloway said: "The material destruction is very great, the suffering is very real, but the spirit of the people is strong. If anyone is calculating that by starving and sieging and bombing the Palestinian people that they will one day surrender, I'm sure that they are wrong, the spirit of the Palestinian resistance remains."

Israeli air strikes

Israel, the United States and European Union, consider Hamas a terrorist organisation. Most aid supplies to Gaza are handled through the United Nations or any of the non-governmental organisations operating in the territory who do not deal directly with Hamas.

Mr Galloway has challenged western states to prosecute him for his meeting with Hamas leaders.

On Wednesday night, Israeli air force planes attacked southern Gaza and direct hits were reported by pilots on two smuggling tunnels. Palestinians rockets were fired into Israel but no-one was reported hurt.

The UK government is due to host talks on Friday on ways to prevent the smuggling of weapons to armed groups in Gaza. Ahead of the meeting Foreign Office Minister of State Bill Rammell said tackling the problem was one element in ensuring a ceasefire.

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