Gaza-bound convoy stranded in Jordan after Egypt rejects Red Sea Port entry

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AMMAN, Dec 26, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Viva Palestina humanitarian convoy, led by British MP George Galloway, was still stranded in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba on Saturday for a second day, following a dispute with Egypt over the caravan's point of entry.

The convoy, which includes over 200 cars and trucks laden with medical supplies and other human assistance and accompanied by over 450 activists from across the world, was scheduled to leave Aqaba on Thursday to Egypt to cross into the besieged Gaza Strip on December 27th.

However, Egypt's foreign minister said in a statement posted on its website last week that the entry point for the convoy should be El Arish on the Mediterranean sea, while the convoy insists that Egypt allows them to enter through Nuweiba Port so as to enter Gaza through the Rafah Crossing Border, saying goring to El Arish port will delay the whole convoy.

"We are stuck here for two days because the Egyptian authorities want us to enter Egypt through El Arish port and that will delay the whole convoy and make the process very difficult and complicated," Zuheir Birawi, the convoy's spokesperson and member, told Xinhua from Aqaba.

"To go to El Arish means we have to cross the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean and we will have to enter the Israeli waters and have to coordinate the entry with the United National Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and that will delay us," Birawi added.

The convoy, which started its trip on December 6th from London, has already crossed several European countries including France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Italy as well as Turkey, Syria and Jordan, hopes to enter Gaza on Dec. 27th on the anniversary of the passage of one year since the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

Meanwhile, Birawi added that dozens of activists taking part in the convoy will hold a hunger strike on Sunday in front of the Egyptian consulate in Aqaba, some 340 kilometers to the south of the Jordanian capital of Amman.

"The activists seek to place pressure on Egypt to allow the entry of the convoy through Nuweiba so that we get to Gaza soon. They also want to urge Egypt to accept mediation efforts underway to speed up the entry of the convoy through Nuweiba," said.

According to Birawi, Malaysian and Turkish officials flew to Cairo on Friday and Saturday in an attempt to convince the Egyptian authorities to allow the entry of the humanitarian caravan through Nuweiba.