The convoy that has been on the go for 22 days was allowed to leave Arish on condition of leaving 59 of the vehicles in Egypt. These vehicles will later be donated to Palestinian refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon by the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation.
Egypt has posed many obstacles to the Gaza-bound convoy that departed Turkey on 16 December and Egyptian riot police attacked the activists with stones and gas bombs at the Arish port the earlier day, injuring 40 people and detaining seven.
Murat Mercan, head of Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission, MPs of Turkish governing party Hüsnü Tuna, Seracettin Karayağız, Mehmet Nil Hıdır, Cemal Yılmaz Demir, deputy chairman of Saadet Party Temel Karamollaoğlu, former MP Mehmet Batuk and MAZLUMDER President Ahmet Faruk Ünsal took part in 10-day long negotiations with Egyptian authorities to resolve the crisis.
Vehicles to be donated to Palestinian camps
During the negotiations Egypt offered taking 59 vehicles bought in Egypt by US Muslims to Gaza through Israel after two weeks. However, this offer was rejected by Turkish officials.
It was decided that the vehicles be shipped to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria through Turkey.
Mercan noted that the Turkish Foreign Ministry was closely following developments regarding the convoy, adding “I talked to [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu 4-5 times within last six hours. We do not want tension in our relations with Egypt. The incidents were aired live on world news stations. It is not time to discuss what happened. We should work to avoid any more such incidents. Egypt has also made it clear again and again that it has no bad intention against Turkey.”
It was alleged in news reports that 12 security officials, including a general, had been taken as hostage during yesterday’s events. IHH President Bülent Yıldırım secured passage of these officials who had been hiding in small building out of the port. Yıldırım said: “My Egyptian friends phoned me and said these security officials had reported to authorities that they had been taken hostage by a group of terrorists. This would have justified their attacks on us. Although they resisted, we forced them to leave the port; thus foiling their plot.”
He noted that the release of the detained activists was among their conditions and they had successfully exposed those who had stopped the convoy from reaching Gaza.
Meanwhile, Egyptian troops and police fired at a group of Palestinians protesting on Gaza border the delay of convoy. Some of the protesters were wounded in the firing and this caused outrage among the activists in Arish.
An Egyptian soldier was killed during the protest.
Egypt had granted the convoy permit to enter and leave Gaza between 3-6 January, but it only allowed the convoy to leave the Arish port on 6 January. It is not clear how long the convoy will be allowed to stay in Gaza and whether it will face any obstacles on return.