In an interview with Press TV, Dr. Hasan Nowarah, a peace activist for Justice for Palestine, and a member of the Scottish aid convoy stuck at the Rafah crossing, gives a detailed account of his travel to the Rafah border, and subsequent rejection to enter Gaza.
Press TV: We'd like you to tell us more about your situation. Why have you been denied entry through Rafah?
Nowarah: We have [received] no excuse or any information for them denying our entry to Rafah.
Before our departure, in the United Kingdom and Scotland we have [prepared] for one year, solid.
While we have been waiting for the convoy, we have been in full contact with the Egyptian embassy in London. And we obtained all the necessary information and visas for our vehicles, for our aid convoys, for our cars - everything to enter into Gaza.
They gave us the green light to travel. They told us your destination has to be Alexandria or al-Arish port, and you're not allowed to travel by land but you must travel with your aid convoy by ship. Fair enough.
We came to Italy. We started in Italy for nearly two weeks waiting for a shipping company in Alexandria who gave us some difficulties trying to book another shipment or another boat.
When we arrived in Alexandria, after five days sailing, they stranded us for nearly another week. Because of their delay, they granted us permission to travel by land to come to Rafah.
Prior to our departure on the port of Alexandria, customs unloaded all our aid: they took it off box by box, palette by palette, every medical instrument, every medical tool has been examined by customs. We spent the time under the sun and everything.
After that, they gave us the green light through customs from Alexandria to Rafah.
Prior to that, in the process of the customs exercise, we were interviewed by the intelligence of Egypt in Alexandria and even the ordinary police. They took our IDs, they took our vehicles, and they took all our documentation and welcomed us to Egypt and said we can go after a week being stranded in Alexandria.
The convoy joined us and we travelled from Alexandria to Rafah border, and we arrived last Thursday evening. We arrived there nearly 11 o'clock at night, and we knew immediately that Friday would be a holiday because it's the weekend for the Egyptians where they do not work.
To our surprise it turned out that Saturday was also a holiday because of the revolutions, they called it the “national day holiday”.
So we waited until Sunday. When Sunday came about, we handed them our documentation, we handed over all our details and they accepted it. It was fantastic. We had no problem. We left immediately.
But, to our surprise, the intelligence in Rafah border said they were not aware of us coming to the border at all, nobody has informed us, nobody has told us, nobody knew of our existence at our door. I said how is that? Before we travelled from Scotland and the United Kingdom, we had a green light from the Foreign Ministry in Cairo through the Egyptian embassy in London. We had the green light to enter, and that's how we came here.
Even at Alexandria's port, the port police investigated and they told us they contacted Cairo and were aware of us coming here. And now they're telling me in the Rafah border that they're not aware of us coming, of our existence, that there was a convoy coming.
He said no sir, that he was surprised to see us there. And I am surprised he didn't have the details.
While he was interviewing me, to my surprise, he opened his folders and I saw with my own eyes, and with Mr. Sharif who was dealing with us at the time, all our details were there. The vehicle registration number, the aid convoy numbers, and the nine people who were supposed to accompany the aid convoy - their names are there. The items in each box, the full details were with them. They were aware of us coming there.
I don't know why he said he didn't know anything about it. It's his excuse. We have two 18 ton trucks and two other vehicles to be used by doctors and nurses between hospitals, and big trucks to be used by mobile hospitals. We have the equipment to refit a mobile hospital.
These trucks can be used as mobile hospitals to treat people who have been under smoke or serious injuries so that by the time they reach a hospital these trucks could save them. If we have a mobile hospital, these people can be treated then and there. That's how we do our project, and we explained this to the authorities.
Despite me seeing the papers, the official said that he was sorry and that he takes his orders from Cairo, not from us.
So, now we have contacted via email the London agency.
A high-ranking delegation of parliamentarians from Europe has arrived in the Gaza Strip for a short visit. The aim is to assess the effects of the blockade imposed by Israel on the people of Gaza for five years.
The Council for European-Palestinian Relations (CEPR), which organised the solidarity visit, said that the delegation of seventeen people entered Gaza through the Egypt-Gaza Rafah border crossing. The delegation includes members of different political factions, including liberals, socialists and Green Party MPs, and is headed by Britain's Labour Party Chairman, Tony Lloyd MP.
According to the CEPR, the purpose of the visit is to raise awareness in Europe of the humanitarian crisis that Gaza's people are enduring as a result of the continued Israeli siege, the 2008/9 Israeli war against Palestinians in Gaza; and the restrictions imposed by Israel on Gaza's fishermen. The delegation members also hoped to see at first-hand Egypt's role at the Rafah border; Rafah is Gaza's only land outlet which does not depend on going through Israel.
On arrival in Gaza, Tony Lloyd said: "There is a future for the people of Gaza, a chance to offer long term hope, but we've got to let the Palestinians get their ordinary life restarted." Former Member of the Scottish Parliament Pauline McNeill said that she believes that "public opinion is on the side of justice and the Palestinians, and it is time for the legitimate state of Palestine to be recognised fully."
The Director of the CEPR, Dr. Arafat Shoukri, claimed that the visit is an excellent opportunity for European officials to assess the situation on the ground and to build closer ties with Palestinians. "We are thrilled at the prospects of this trip being a success for Europeans and Palestinians alike," he said. more
The Turkish government has for the first time voiced the existence of its “Plan B” against Israel if no apology comes before a July 27 deadline, a plan that will include measures to further freeze relations.
The statement comes amid an ongoing debate in the Israeli Cabinet over whether or not to formally apologize to Turkey over last year’s Mavi Marmara incident.
“We are going to wait for their [Israel’s] decision for a period of time. Then [if no apology comes], we will surely implement our Plan B,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters Saturday at a joint press conference with Jordanian Prime Minister Maroof al-Bakhit.
Erdoğan’s statement came just a day before the Israeli Cabinet was to hold a key meeting on the matter. Relations have been strained between Turkey and Israel since Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish people May 31, 2010, aboard a vessel carrying humanitarian goods to Gaza.
Ankara has demanded that Israel issue a formal apology, pay compensation to the families of the victims and lift its sea blockade on Gaza if it wants to mend ties with Turkey. A U.N. panel is set to announce its report on the May 31 incident on July 27, barring last-minute delays.
According to information obtained by the Hürriyet Daily News, the “Plan B” mentioned by Erdoğan will have a strong impact on further degrading relations between the two countries. One of the most important moves would be further reducing Turkey’s level of diplomatic representation in Tel Aviv. After the Mavi Marmara incident, Turkey canceled the appointment of Kerim Uras as ambassador to Tel Aviv in a show of reaction. If Israel refuses to apologize, the current level of diplomatic representation, charge d’affairs, would be reduced to the level of second secretary. more
A team headed by National Security Adviser Ya'akov Amidror is looking into calling off the Oslo Accords in response to the Palestinian Authority's unilateral plan to gain United Nations recognition for an independent state.
The Prime Minister's Bureau confirmed yesterday only that the NSC was discussing many alternatives ahead of September, and would be presenting them to the political echelon for a decision when it was done.
Israeli officials did confirm that recent discussions held by Amidror had mentioned the option of voiding the Oslo Accords. However, this is not considered a leading alternative, they said.
"It is one of the options that will be presented to the political echelon," a source said. more
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Israeli Ofer military tribunal has extended the period of administrative detention of one of the longest held Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons, the International Tadamun (Solidarity) Foundation for Human Rights has reported.
Tadamun researcher and legal expert Ahmed Tubasi said that an additional three months in administrative detention has been pinned on prisoner Ahmed Nabahan Saqr, from the Askar refugee camp near Nablus.
Saqr was first arrested on 28 November 2008 after a night raid on his home. He was then immediately transferred to administrative detention, without charge or trial.
The instance was the ninth time his period of detention had been extended. PIC