The Times of London looks at failed convoy

1 Jun

Kevin Ovenden (in sunglasses), director of Viva Palestina Arabia’s failed aid convoy to Gaza, helps repack one of the vehicles en route


by Laura Pitel

The Times of London

31 May 2012

An aid convoy to Gaza championed by George Galloway has been forced to abandon its mission after being refused permission to enter Egypt.

The mainly British participants on the convoy, which was led by a charity linked to Mr Galloway, were on their way home last night after spending more than five weeks travelling through Europe and the Middle East. They said that vehicles and humanitarian aid intended for the Gaza Strip would be given to Palestinian refugees instead.

The convoy, led by a group called Viva Palestina Arabia, had been waiting in Jordan for several weeks after driving across Europe to the Levant, having set off from England last month. They were unable to secure permission from the Egyptian authorities to cross into the country by sea, reportedly because the group did not organise their passage in advance.

The failure is the latest in a string of disasters for the convoy, which was waved off from Bradford by Mr Galloway, the newly elected MP for Bradford West.

Several international organisations due to take part in the aid mission pulled out in protest at plans to travel through Syria, which required working with the Assad regime to guarantee safe passage.

Internal disagreements then led to nine convoy participants deserting the mission in Istanbul.

The convoy of a dozen vehicles stocked with humanitarian aid had been stuck in the Jordanian port town of Aqaba for more than a fortnight, staying in hotels while waiting for the green light from the Egyptians.

Mr Galloway flew to Egypt a fortnight ago in an effort to help to secure the mission’s passage. Speaking on one of his two weekly shows on the Iranian channel Press TV, he said: “The main purpose I was there was to try and negotiate the passage from Aqaba in the South of Jordan into Sinai and thus to Gaza of Viva Palestina’s new convoy… Unfortunately, they have been marooned – as normal – for many days now and all of my efforts going on there this evening have not yet been fruitful.”

This week they decided to cut their losses and abandon their mission.

According to the Jordanian newspaper al-Dustour, Kevin Ovenden, the convoy’s leader, said that the group appeared to have secured permission from the Egyptian authorities, but that this was rescinded at the last minute for no apparent reason.

But others blamed poor leadership and organisation.

Timur Khan, one of those who abandoned the convoy in Turkey, told The Times: “I left in Istanbul after a series of increasingly bizarre and dangerous decisions, including a vociferous insistence on going into Syria.

“Unfortunately this noble cause, to alleviate the suffering of Gazan children living in the world’s largest prison camp, was infected from the start by incompetence.”

A spokesman for Mr Galloway declined to comment. The convoy’s leaders could not be reached.

One Response to “The Times of London looks at failed convoy”

  1. Tom Van Meurs June 1, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    I suggest that George Galloway takes up contact with the leadership of the Islamic Brotherhood.
    I believe that the Brotherhood has come out of the recent elections as one of the strongest parties.

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