Stopped at the Suez Canal by Egyptian authorities, over 100 delegates from the Viva Palestina caravan are sleeping in vehicles until they are permitted passage to the Sinai peninsula on their way to deliver medical aid to Gaza. The group is being pressed to return to Cairo by Egyptian officials and has not been allowed to cross the Mubarak Peace Bridge in El Qantara, Egypt.
Despite the well-publicized aim of the mission and previous disclosure of delegate information to the Egyptian government and Egyptian ambassadors to the U.S. and Great Britain, border officials are claiming that they have no record of the names of convoy members.
Nancy Mansour Leigh, an organizer and spokesperson for the convoy, indicated that the delegates would have “an uncomfortable night, but it’s nothing compared to what the people of Gaza live through every day”. Eighty five percent of Gazan citizens live below the poverty line, where $650 is the average annual per capita income.
Charles Barron, a Democratic councilmember from Brooklyn, is a leading representative of the convoy who is presently being detained at the Suez crossing with the rest of the delegation. At 2200 EST on July 11th, he reported that the 4 buses loaded with activists and medical supplies were pulled over to the side of the road at the Mubarak checkpoint. Barron reported the caravan had been granted a 3 hour extension to remain at the border awaiting approval, which he attributed to an impromptu demonstration by convoy members who had proudly disembarked at the crossing waving flags and chanting “Free Palestine”. Barron reported he had contacted the U.S. State Department, the White House, and the Department of Foreign Affairs about the convoy’s detainment, but had received no response.
The members of the Mubarak bridge contingent are to be re-united with the drivers of the delegation, who are presently staying in Alexandria to pick up the 47 vehicles which will comprise the convoy. Viva Palestina U.S. intends to break the siege by crossing into Gaza carrying medical aid in the next several days.