'No excuse to refuse Gaza aid convoy'
Mon Jul 25, 2011 5:46PM
An interview with Dr. Hasan Nowarah, peace activist for Justice for Palestine, and member of the Scottish aid convoy
The Scottish-to-Gaza aid convoy had received legal permission from all venues to enter Gaza but was rejected entrance at the Rafah crossing, says an activist.
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.