Yesterday we had successfully arrived at the port of Al-Arish. All the 220 vehicles were there, joined with the 450 volunteers. It seemed only a matter of time before we left for Rafah, 15 miles down the road. George and the rest of the leadership announced that talks were ongoing, but everything suggested that we should be in Gaza by late yesterday afternoon. It was great; we thought we were finally going to make it, elbowing Egypt out of the spotlight and turning it on the great people of Palestine.NEW UPDATE: they said in a 2nd message today that they expect to leave for Rafah today and be allowed to stay for 48 hours inside Gaza. The 59-60 vehicles in question will not be going in but will be retained in the possession of Turkey, not Egypt. All members are said to have been cleared to enter Gaza, just not those 59-60 vehicles from the USA. They hope all this is true and that they will leave for Rafah soon. But my guess is that no one will leave for hours, not after the fracas at the Rafah border a few hours ago where 2 Palestinians were shot and injured by Egyptian security. I’ve seen over the last hour on live television the Gaza police and Gaza border control agents attempting to clear all the people from the border. Once they have all been cleared and some time passes, perhaps Egypt will let the convoy go sometime tonight and quickly enter after dark. Just a hunch, but if it is going to happen today, it will be tonight when things are settled and less media around. Otherwise tomorrow night after dark. That is what I think anyway. We will see. Any more updates I’ll get them up quickly.
Instead this happened. Kevin Ovenden said at around 730pm that negotiations were in a critical stage and we needed to make our voices heard. This advice was taken many different ways. I got the idea that the Egyptians had gone back on their word to let the whole convoy in, but rather they were letting everyone in, except 70 cars from USA that didn’t have any medical aid anyway.
Anyway, people did make their voices heard and began to chant and shout inside the compound as the negotiations went on in the balcony up above. An energetic crowd gathered and made its way to the gate of the compound. It was mainly the Turk contingent joined by some of the British. Anyway, the crowd was greeted by Ovenden and Galloway who were on the balcony above.
The crowd made its way to the gate and broke it. At this point, there was only about 20 Egyptian police around, and they seemed scared. But the riot police had been preparing up the hill all day and they soon surrounded us. The Egyptian official had walked out of negotiations and ordered the riot police in. There was a standoff between ourselves and around at least 400 or more riot police. They encircled us at the gate, and drove a massive water tanker to block of the exit about 15 yards away from the gate.
At the beginning, it was a peaceful protest, singing and making noise. The Egyptians were there to be provoked, no doubt, but they needed a reason. This went on for about 1 hour 30 mins, and then all hell broke loose. I don’t know who threw the first stone but the Egyptians seemed to have prepared stones to be thrown. A running battle went on for about 30 minutes, mainly the Egyptians hurtling stones at us. Some people fought back with stones and sticks against the riot police with batons. Five seasoned Derry men stood at the back. Ole hands at these riots.
The end result was up to 20 people injured, head injuries and even worse it appears. There was news that the Turks had captured 3 Egyptians police as hostages but they were later released. There was a deadly atmosphere amongst the compound. This wasn’t the way it was suppose to work out, we should of been heading for Gaza. At this point, it’s too early to see where the blame lies.
Galloway made his way onto the stage, looking very shaken and holding prayer beads, he recalled the progression of events that I have just told, and once again, encouraged people to protest throughout the world against the Egyptians. He said we wouldn’t be going anywhere soon'. We went to bed after that.
So another massive change of events, and I think the whole thing has had a negative rather than positive effect on proceedings. A lot of people think this way and I could see a lot of people going home. If that is possible I do not know, because as I was going out to the internet café to send this, they gave me hassle and took my passport. Who knows what will happen today
The five of us are going to have a team meeting shortly and discuss flights. We are due to fly out today but won’t make it at this point. Things have gone by in impasse for too long, it’s become a game of political football, we just came for the people of Gaza and we are still not there after more than 4 weeks. Still no matter who goes home, we will show patience and wait at least until Sunday to see what transpires. But definitely, this morning we are disappointed and have no sight of what the future holds.
I have lots of pictures of the riot but this pc won’t let me upload them.All the best, and thanks for the support once again. The 5 boys
3 days ago