January 8th 10
In the midst of all our local political controversy and ongoing revelations a jubilant John Hurson rang this Blog yesterday (Thursday) morning to confirm that the ‘Viva Palestina Convoy’ had finally reached Gaza with its urgently needed medical and humanitarian aid for the 1.5 million inhabitants of that besieged region.
John is a Tyrone man and one of many international aid workers and activists, including some from Ireland, who have devoted much of their time in recent years to helping the Palestinian people in the Gaza strip and west Bank.
Somewhat hoarse from the celebrations he reported that ‘517 people last night broke the siege’.
The convoy had been on the road since early December when it left London . It travelled through Europe, Turkey , Syria , Jordan and then back to Syria . Over 40 nations are represented in the convoy.
When the ‘Viva Palestina Convoy’ finally reached the Egyptian-Gaza border around December 24th there was a stand-off with Egyptian authorities refusing some of the vehicles access to Gaza and insisting they would have to go through an Israeli controlled checkpoint. The convoy organisers feared that this would mean some of the aid being blocked entirely and not reaching those who desperately need it.
The stand-off led to violence in which one Egyptian soldier was killed and dozens of convoy activists, including several from Ireland , were injured. However on Thursday evening the convoy was allowed through and was met by a jubilant crowd of Gazans.
159 lorries entered the Gaza strip while 59 other lorries containing generators returned to Syria where their equipment will be distributed to Palestinian refugee camps there and in Lebanon .
The convoy was originally scheduled to enter Gaza on December 27th the first anniversary of last years Israeli assault on the area which led to the deaths of around 1400 Gazan citizens, the majority of whom were civilians.
This Blog remains convinced that the Israeli siege of Gaza is illegal and immoral and should end. The international community should be ashamed of its failure to address this issue and end the siege.
As for John Hurson he is now in Gaza unloading his lorry and delivering the supplies he first loaded six weeks ago.
Among these is a selection of GAA jerseys and other equipment, including balls. John is a keen and enthusiastic Tyrone fan. Last November at an event in the grounds of Parliament Buildings at Stormont to dedicate a tree to mark 125 years of An Cumann Luthchleas Gael (the GAA), John told this Blog of his plan to establish a GAA club in Gaza within the existing Gaza Sporting Club.
According to John, Noam Chomsky, internationally renowned philosopher and political activist has agreed to participate and John has also secured the support of GAA activists, including Peter Canavan, who is co-President of the Gaza GAA Club.
In his call from Gaza he told this Blog of his hope to getting down now to getting the GAA club off the ground. In the meantime yesterday afternoon the geansais – jerseys – and balls were to be put to good work in a local soccer match. John said: “We can at least begin teaching them how to shoot the ball over the post!!”.
This Blog commends and fully supports John’s efforts and those of the hundreds of other activists who take great risks organising and participating in the aid convoys to Gaza .
As part of the necessary effort to rebuild a peace process the siege of Gaza should be lifted.