Middle East

Aid convoy reaches Gaza without George Galloway

An international aid convoy crosses into Gaza at the Rafah border crossing, 21 October
Image caption Hundreds of international activists drove the donated vans into Gaza

Pro-Palestinian activists have driven more than 130 donated vehicles into the Gaza Strip in an overland aid convoy aimed at breaking the Israeli blockade.

The convoy set off from London last month, driving across Europe before finally entering Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

It was organised by Viva Palestina, an aid group headed by former British member of parliament George Galloway.

Egypt banned him from the trip due to previous clashes with security forces.

The Lifeline 5 convoy, made up of 137 vans filled with humanitarian aid supplies, was accompanied by around 340 pro-Palestinian activists of various nationalities, Egypt's official Mena news agency said.

The aid, said to be worth $5m (£3.2m), was warmly welcomed by members of the Hamas government which runs the blockaded coastal strip.

The Islamist group is subject to tough economic and diplomatic sanctions by neighbouring Egypt and Israel, as well as some Western allies.

Israel eased its blockade of Gaza after an outcry over its raid on a Turkish flotilla in May that left nine activists dead.

But it still controls imports, maintains a complete air and naval blockade, severely restricts the movement of Palestinians, and bans almost all exports from Gaza.

Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent arms from reaching Hamas militants, but the UN says the measures amount to collective punishment of the impoverished territory's one million people.

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