The group, members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, will be visiting shopping centres around the city with an information stall and a large banner for people to sign, which will also be taken as a present to the people of Gaza.
The Bristol group has been formed by members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign http://www.bristolpsc.info/. It includes people who have been involved with the previous convoys to Gaza.
Sakir Yildirim, a member of the Bristol-Gaza Link, in his message to IHH said “I’ve been to Gaza twice now and seen the devastation caused by the bombing. Homes, schools, even hospitals blown to bits. These people deserve a chance to rebuild their shattered lives. But Israel’s ban on building materials is stopping this. It’s truly shocking and I’m determined to try to help again.”
He goes on to say “In the past Israel has threatened, rammed and even captured boats heading for Gaza, even in International waters. However, short of a major international incident campaigners are confident this new fleet will be allowed in. This will be only the second time in decades that boats have managed to reach Gaza. We think it’s really important to break Israel’s siege of Gaza and to get these building materials in to the people who desperately need them.”
He concludes “Time is short for this project and we don’t have time to organise more vehicles. Besides which, building materials are heavy and are better purchased as near to the destination as possible. In this case it means in Turkey where the ships sail from. If we can raise the money for a thousand bags of cement as part of this shipment then we will know we’ve done our bit to help.”
In response to the Israeli attacks on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009, Bristol-Gaza-Link sent a major convoy of medical & humanitarian aid as part of the Viva Palestine convoy to Gaza. During the autumn the group raised over £24,000 from across the communities of Bristol and a huge quantity of medical aid.
Mohamed Elhaddad, chair of Bristol-Gaza-Link said, “Our group in Bristol-Gaza-Link is concentrating on building links with Gaza and the Palestine people. We know it’s really important that schools, youth-groups, professional groups, trade unions, faith-groups, and ordinary people find ways of linking up. On the other hand we really feel for the harsh conditions that the people of Gaza are forced to endure. Our group will be sending a donation to the IHH project And we really applaud more people getting involved with practical aid, such as this Cement Project, to help the people of Gaza."
The Israeli attacks on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 resulted in over a thousand people killed and tens of thousands injured. In addition thousands of buildings including schools, hospitals, and homes were destroyed. The people of Gaza want to put their shattered lives back together, but Israel’s continuing siege and their ban on building materials has prevented the rebuilding. Even the UN has resorted to using mud bricks see http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=88032.
A Recent Report By Amnesty International: “Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses”
Amnesty International states that in Gaza, 2,870 homes need major repairs; 3.540 need complete rebuilding, while 52,900 have minor damage. 20,000 people remain displaced from their homes, some of them are still living in tents.
48% of the health institutions in Gaza were damaged or destroyed.
18 schools were destroyed.
The report goes on to say, “Israel’s constriction on the entry of construction materials into Gaza has tightened. Barely four trucks of construction materials a month have entered Gaza during this period, just 0.05% of pre-blockade flows. As a result all kinds of construction materials – cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum, tar and spare parts are in desperately short supply or completely unavailable. By enforcing the blockade on the Gaza Strip, Israel is violating the absolute prohibition on collective punishment in international humanitarian law.”
In response IHH (The Foundation For Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief), based in Turkey, is planning a fleet of boats to transport building materials and medical aid to Gaza setting off in May. This will be the largest consignment of aid to Gaza to date. The Foundation has been helping the repair of the harbor in Gaza to receive the ships.
IHH will be joined by boats from other countries including one setting off from Ireland at the end of this month see www.GazaBoatConvoy.co.uk. Stephen Williams, Member of the Parliament for Bristol West, visited Gaza recently. His delegation was refused entry into Israeli during his visit.