Miles of Smiles Convoy (26) arrived this past week, in Gaza, with solidarity activists from 21 nations worldwide.Deputy Foreign Minister, Ghazi Hamad, welcomed the convoy’s activists ‘Here Gaza, where we share patience and resilience.’
Hamad expressed hope that the convoy encourages other convoys.
He appreciated the delegation’s determination to come to the besieged Gaza Strip, and thanked Egypt for facilitating the convoy’s arrival, calling for a permanent opening of the Rafah Crossing.
Al Ray further reports that Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip has only been open for 12 days so far, this year, according to Gaza’s Interior Ministry.
In a statement, ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bazm said Egyptian authorities were keeping the crossing shut ‘without stating the reasons.’
Due to an eight-year-long Israeli embargo on the Gaza Strip, the Rafah border crossing – which links the strip to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula – represents Gaza’s only window to the outside world.
Al-Bazm also called on international legal and humanitarian agencies to pressure Egypt to reopen the crossing with a view to ‘ending the suffering of thousands of Palestinians in the enclave.’
Egyptian authorities have tightened their grip on the border with the Hamas-run the Gaza Strip since last July, when the army ousted elected president Mohamed Morsi and cracked down on his Hamas-linked Muslim Brotherhood group.
Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007.
Just this past Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned of a collapse of humanitarian services in the Gaza Strip due to eight years of Israeli blockade.
Head of the ICRC mission in Gaza Christian Cardon said the tightening restrictions imposed on the movement of goods and individuals from and into the Gaza Strip ‘are ringing a bell’.
He warned that the Israeli measures and the ongoing Egyptian closure of the Rafah border crossing point with Gaza ‘are worrying and will influence the humanitarian situation in the territory’.
The Gaza Strip, an impoverished and densely populated coastal enclave ruled by Hamas, has been under a tight Israeli blockade after Hamas won the election in 2006. Free movement of goods, products and individuals is restricted.
Egypt has kept the Rafah border crossing closed after the deposition of the elected president Mohamed Morsi, in early July of last year, and opened it temporarily for humanitarian cases.
Egypt has also destroyed thousands of tunnels dug by Palestinians to escape the Israeli blockade, which has badly affected people’s daily life in Gaza.
‘The lack of all materials, mainly construction materials and fuels, in addition to the lack of goods and high prices, I think thus will certainly affect the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,’ Cardon said.
A delegation member told an Al Ray correspondent, ‘The Palestinian people want his freedom and land; we support his claims and will show his support in moral and material means.”
‘The convoy stands for your reach to the free world; you are not alone facing this unjust siege,” he added.